The last time the New York Giants had the second overall pick in the NFL Draft they used it to select North Carolina linebacker Lawrence Taylor in 1981. The speculation has already begun as to whom they will select in 2018.
This upcoming draft is ripe with talent at the quarterback position. It is already drawing comparisons to the draft classes of 1983 (which produced Hall of Famers John Elway, Jim Kelly, and Dan Marino) and 2004 (which produced three potential Hall of Famers in Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, and Ben Roethlisberger).
Manning owns every significant Giants passing record, the second longest consecutive start streak by a quarterback in NFL history, and two Super Bowl victories. He turned 37 on Jan. 3 and 2018 will be his 15th NFL season. The Giants could look to select a quarterback in April’s draft to succeed No. 10.
Naturally, it is too soon to speculate as to whom the Giants will select with the second overall pick with the draft a little more than three months away. However, it is not too soon to look at the quarterbacks (assuming, of course, they select a quarterback) who may suit up for the Giants come September.
Name: Sam Darnold
Date of Birth: June 5, 1997
School: Southern California (2015-17, redshirted 2015)
Weight: 220 lbs.
Career Stats: 549 completions in 846 attempts for 7,229 yards (64.9 percent), 57 touchdowns and 22 interceptions; 140 carries for 322 yards and seven touchdowns
Career Highlights: 2016 Pac-12 Offensive Freshman of the Year, 2016 Archie Griffin Award (awarded to college football’s most valuable player for the entire season, first freshman to win the award), 2016 Rose Bowl Game Most Valuable Player (shared with USC defensive tackle Stevie Tu’ikolovatu)
Strengths: Darnold has the arm strength to connect with any receiver on the field. His accuracy is great and really stands out on the deeper throws. Darnold is also able to make throws on the run, an asset when plays break down and he’s forced from the pocket.
His athleticism is outstanding for a quarterback his size. He played both wide receiver and linebacker in high school as well as baseball. Darnold was also a basketball player, twice earning league Most Valuable Player honors. He’s not a running quarterback in the traditional sense but can use his legs to keep the chains moving. Darnold is at his best when forced to improvise. He makes throws in odd positions and angles that very few quarterbacks can make.
Darnold constantly keeps his eyes down the field, which is why he consistently made big plays for the Trojans. He is aggressive in his approach and willing to take hits. Darnold also has a very short memory when it comes to mistakes. He has many of the intangibles (a.k.a. “the things you can’t teach”) that NFL scouts and executives are looking for.
Weaknesses: Darnold is a gunslinger in the Brett Favre sense of the word. At times, he will deliver some of the most miraculous throws you ever see. On the other hand, he has a propensity to just chuck the ball in the air for the defense to pick off.
Darnold is sometimes too aggressive and will not take the hit or throw the ball away. He has problems reading coverages. This sometimes led to turnovers in the Pac-12 and will definitely lead to turnovers in the NFL as the defenses are more sophisticated than anything he saw playing on Saturday afternoons.
Darnold has shown he’s not completely comfortable sitting in the pocket. He tends to move his feet around when the pressure is on him. This will be an issue in the NFL as defenses tend to use blitzes to make quarterbacks antsy. His elongated delivery will open him up to strip sacks at the next level.
NFL Comparison: When it comes to playing style, Darnold is reminiscent of Roethlisberger. Both players throw accurate deep passes, excel when they have to move out of the pocket, and are not afraid of contact. They also are at their best in high pressure situations. At the same time, they both have those “I can’t believe he just did that” moments that drive coaches insane.
In terms of personality and demeanor, Darnold is comparable to Manning. Darnold’s work ethic and off-the-field behavior are a definite plus. He has the ability to command a huddle and be a positive force in the locker room. In addition, Darnold’s teammates love him.
In public, Darnold is stoic to the point where it is virtually impossible to tell what he is thinking. Offensive lineman Chad Wheeler, one of Darnold’s former USC teammates, nicknamed him Eli 2.0. While not the best quarterback in the draft in terms of mechanics, Darnold is the most Giants-like. These qualities would serve him well playing in the nation’s largest media market.