Best Scheme Fit: Darnold seems to excel the most on the move and when plays begin to break down, so a timing-based offense that allows him to roll out on play-action passes and create would suit him well. Note: All times listed in parentheses
in strengths/weaknesses section reflect the start time on video
- via Draft Breakdown - that displays that skill/trait.
Throws with touch/anticipation and will generally hit his
targets in stride when he sets his feet and follows through.
(2:32, 5:16, 5:43, 5:45, 6:06, 6:52, 7:37)
Demonstrates above-average pocket presence, consistently
working/manipulating the pocket to buy more time; seems to be
at his best after the play breaks down. (0:06, 2:17, 2:41, 2:59, 6:37, 7:46)
Doesn't always appear to identify a potential undercutting
safety or linebacker after the snap. (0:59,
Needs to learn when he's maximized a scramble/running opportunity
and slide or get out of bounds. (0:38,
2:13, 3:13, 6:26)
Showed a tendency to hold on to the ball much more in 2017,
contributing to a marked spike in sacks from six in 2016 to
29 in 2017. (0:59, 4:31, 5:30, 5:59)
Charged with 11 fumbles (nine lost) in 2017.
Darnold is far from a finished product. His windup is somewhat
similar to Fitzpatrick's, although he possesses much more arm
strength and is much less of a true gunslinger than the veteran
journeyman. Darnold had "noisy" feet in the pocket and
appeared to be more frenetic than any quarterback prospect on
some of the early film I watched (although he seemed to improve
dramatically as 2017 progressed). He has roughly 1 1/2 years of
starting experience and is entering the NFL following his redshirt
sophomore season, so there will be a larger-than-usual learning
curve. And yet, he exudes remarkable self-confidence and the guts
of a seasoned NFL veteran. At a position in which a player's psychological
and mental makeup is every bit as important as physical skill,
it's not hard to understand why evaluators love his "intangibles."
But is that enough for the presumptive No. 1 overall pick? Allow
me to answer that question by saying I don't believe he is in
the same class as Carson Wentz or Deshaun Watson - the players
I believed were at the top of their respective classes at the
quarterback position in each of the last two years. His anticipation
and creativity are well ahead of most of today's college quarterbacks,
and those traits are worth a lot on their own. None of his Darnold's
aforementioned concerns above are terribly egregious on their
own, but the combination of all of them means he needs time to
develop at the very least. If a team will take it slow with him
in 2018, he could easily end up being the best quarterback in
this class. With that said, his floor scares me.
Darnold looks every bit the part of an elite prospect when he
knows he has time to throw or is on the move. He also consistently
makes something out of nothing. However, there are far too many
examples of him forcing the action and using poor mechanics, which
is why he shouldn't be considered a plug-and-play player. Winston
is still struggling in those same areas entering his fourth NFL
season, proving it will probably take Darnold some time to reach
his ceiling even in an optimal situation. In my humble opinion,
whether he will grow into a top-10 NFL starter or bust will depend
on how patient and adaptable (to Darnold's ability to improvise)
his new team is with his development. In most years, I believe
he would be rated as the second- or third-best quarterback available,
and that is about where I feel he will probably fall on my position
rankings when I wrap up my evaluations.
Doug Orth has written for FF
Today since 2006 and been featured in USA Today’s Fantasy
Football Preview magazine since 2010. He hosted USA Today’s
hour-long, pre-kickoff fantasy football internet chat every Sunday
in 2012-13 and appears as a guest analyst on a number of national
sports radio shows, including Sirius XM’s “Fantasy Drive”.
Doug is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.