football Edit

Take Two: Will Sam Darnold be a productive QB in the NFL?

Sam Darnold
Sam Darnold (AP Images)

MORE TAKE TWO: Who will take over college football when Saban leaves?

Take Two returns with a daily offering tackling a handful of issues in the college football landscape. National Recruiting Analyst Adam Gorney lays out the situation and then receives takes from National Recruiting Director Mike Farrell and a local expert from the network of team sites.


ESPN NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper, Jr. has USC quarterback Sam Darnold as a top-five pick but on a recent conference call was also not incredibly complimentary of the season Darnold had with the Trojans and seemed especially concerned about Darnold’s propensity to turn the ball over.

That will be an ongoing concern for NFL executives as they break down this draft class especially at the loaded quarterback position. Darnold probably entered this season as the clearcut No. 1 pick - at least at quarterback - but Kiper said “bad habits” set in and turnovers have become an issue when talking about the USC QB.

Darnold threw 13 interceptions this season and some of those could be blamed on rushed throws because of a poor offensive line or drops because of inexperienced receivers but many were just bad throws as well. It’s concerning to NFL franchises breaking down which quarterbacks should be taken off the board first.

Plenty of standout NFL quarterbacks have thrown many interceptions in college - Houston Texans QB Deshaun Watson had 17 picks in 2016 and 13 in 2015 while at Clemson - so Darnold is not alone in this but it does raise the question whether he can shake the turnover bug.

Unless something drastic happens, Darnold is going to be an early first-round pick. His success was virtually written in stone leading up to this season. Now, no one is quite certain which Darnold will show up in the pros.


“I'm not sure where Sam Darnold is in 10 years but I would bet on him to succeed at the pro level. I think he has absolutely everything you can ask for in a pro quarterback outside of top-level arm strength. Most of all, I think he's a playmaker. But the turnovers are absolutely a concern and I could see them being a part of his downfall at the NFL level. At that level, the windows being thrown into are tighter and the pass rush is much more intense. Darnold definitely needs to clean things up a bit to succeed as a pro but I would bet on him to do it.”


“Ten years from now, I could see him having a Matthew Stafford-type career where he’s considered one of those middle-of-the-road quarterbacks who has a niche, doesn’t really lead his team to much, puts up big numbers but isn’t considered among the elite quarterbacks in the league. It’s such a quarterback-starved league, I could see him carving out a career like that.

“I would say 10 years from now, he could still be starting. The odds are against it, of course. Look at guys who pan out that were top-five picks, 10 years is a very, very long time. We always think about the guys who had success but we don’t think about the guys who completely flamed out. Darnold has a chance to do it because the league is so starved for quarterbacks.”