Who the top NFL quarterback prospect is for the 2018 NFL Draft depends on who you ask. Sam Darnold is battling Josh Rosen and Josh Allen for top billing heading into next spring.
The red-shirt sophomore has tried to pump the brakes on draft talk, insisting he may stay in Los Angeles next season. Unless Darnold pulls a shocker, it would be surprising if Darnold does not declare given how high his draft stock is.
Heavy currently has Darnold as the top 2018 pick in our latest NFL mock draft. Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller has Sam Darnold going third to the Jets right after the 49ers take Josh Allen with the second pick.
ESPN’s Mel Kiper has the three quarterbacks as the top players on his big board. Darnold leads the trio followed by Rosen then Allen.
Kiper explains his rankings in his latest big board.
Darnold has everything NFL teams want in a starter. He has a big frame (6-foot-4, 225 pounds), makes quick decisions and is an accurate, natural passer. He completed 67.2 percent of his passes last season and ranked second in the nation in Total QBR (86.8). Darnold has thrown too many interceptions to start the 2017 season — four in two games — and he has an unorthodox, long delivery that will have to be tweaked.
Heading into the season, NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah reached out to five NFL executives to find out the quarterback they prefer. Darnold got four votes while Rosen had one vote. It will be worth watching whether this is the popular opinion by the end of the season.
Prior to the season, ESPN’s Todd McShay also had Darnold ranked as the top prospect.
After being inserted in the starting lineup, Darnold took a 1-3 USC team and led it to a Rose Bowl appearance last season…He can improve his ball security (nine fumbles, five lost), and his delivery is a bit long, but his accuracy is outstanding. He’s an early Heisman Trophy favorite and is a more complete player than Josh Allen at this point.
Darnold was not the kind of top recruit you may have expected. He was a four-star recruit on Rivals, and ranked as the 179th national prospect. Tennessee, Oregon, Duke, Utah and Northwestern were the other major college football programs to offer Darnold.
After a poor performance against Western Michigan to open the season, Darnold bounced back by leading the Trojans to victory over Stanford. Darnold threw for 605 yards, four touchdowns and four interceptions.
Unless Darnold’s play falls off the rest of the season, it is hard to imagine the USC quarterback falling outside the top three picks.