Out of all the young quarterbacks entering the 2018 NFL Draft, could Sam Darnold surprise the world by being picked first? Some think the USC Trojans star could be the overall No. 1 pick, so get to know all about him.
1. He’s a California boy – through and through. If he is indeed the overall No. 1 draft pick, Sam Darnold, 20, could be trading the Golden State shores for the sunny skies of scenic Ohio. The 2018 NFL Draft is stacked with so many young, talented players that it’s hard to predict who’ll be the first pick, but many think that the Cleveland Browns should pick Sam. After all, the Sam Clemente, California native has been a star player for the University of Southern California Trojans. In his two seasons with USC, he’s thrown for 7,229 yards and 57 touchdowns. He also led the Trojans to a 2017 Rose Bowl victory and is set to be one of the biggest stars of this year’s draft.
2. He was a two-sport athlete in High School. Sam grew up a die-hard Los Angeles Lakers fan, and began playing basketball when he was five years old. “I think being a quarterback complemented his basketball abilities, and vice versa,” his high school basketball coach, Marc Popovich told the LA Times. “He was the only guy I’ve ever had who could get a defensive rebound and launch a 70-foot pass on target, pretty much in the same motion, to a guy breaking out in the fastbreak. It was almost Wes Unseld-like.” Ultimately, Sam picked football over basketball, but he retains a love for the sport.
3. He’s the grandson of the Marlboro Man. Sam’s grandfather is Dick Hammer, a late actor who was famously portrayed the Marlboro Man as part of the cigarette’s advertising campaign. Sadly, Dick (who played basketball at USC and was part of the 1964 US Olympic Volleyball team) passed away in 1999, two years before Sam was born. “[Sam] very humble and loyal and he got all his agility and coordination [from his grandfather],” his mother told Fox Sports. “I know my dad would be so proud of him and who he’s become.”
4. Sam has some issues with turnovers. Sam fumbled the ball 12 times in 14 games in the 2017-18 season, up from 9 times from the previous season. On top of that, he had 13 interceptions in his final college season, including one that was ran back for a touchdown in the 2018 Cotton Bowl. “Whenever you turn over the ball that much, it’s hard to win games. I made a bad read on the pick-six. I shouldn’t have thrown it, obviously. He jumped inside of the receiver right after the ball was snapped, and I didn’t see him. And it was a bad play on my part,” Sam said after the loss, per Cleveland.com. These issues might sink Sam’s shot at the No. 1 pick, but his talent should see him go early in the first round.
5. Even his rivals think he should be the No. 1 pick. “If I was drafting a player, I would take Sam Darnold,” Stanford football coach David Shaw told the New York Post, speaking highly of the Pac-12 rival. “The combination of [Josh Rosen’s] injury issues, but then Sam’s athleticism and his ability to hurt defense with his legs, that’s the X-factor. That mobility is a huge X-factor.” Will Cleveland take David’s advice? Or will Sam become bicoastal when/if the New York Giants or Jets pick him?