Is Darnold the man?
Is there any question now who the Browns would select with the first pick in this year’s National Football League college draft if the lottery were tomorrow?
Not after Sam Darnold unloaded a wow! performance at his pro day at USC Wednesday in front of members of the of Browns’ front office, coaching staff and ownership in California.
The young quarterback's impressive 60-throw afternoon in the rain removed any doubts as to whether he has what it takes to make a successful jump to professional football.
If there are any lingering uncertainties about whether he is ready to take the next step in his football career, they were dispelled in front of an audience that included Browns General Manager John Dorsey, offensive coordinator Todd Haley, quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese and owner Jimmy Haslam III.
It is most unusual to see so many important members of the front office and coaching staff in attendance. That’s a clear sign Darnold is either sitting atop the Browns’ board now or is No. 1 in their hearts with regard to this terrific quarterbacks class.
If they wanted verification, Darnold did not disappoint. He dazzled, showing vast improvement in his footwork, accuracy with all his throws from the pocket and on the run, a smooth delivery and the ability to work mostly under center despite the adverse weather conditions.
He appears to have tightened his delivery (one of several flaws that caused early concern), seems to have corrected a hitch, displayed a quick release, but still needs to work on shortening that release. All are coachable.
Pro days for quarterbacks are carefully scripted and sometimes rehearsed so as not to embarrass the player. What made the day so special for him was how comfortable and unflustered he looked in the steady rain.
Darnold did not throw at the NFL combine a few weeks ago, generating speculation he had shoulder problems, but he made all the throws with no apparent problems with his shoulder. He looked especially sharp with his deep outs and go routes.
Granted he was in shorts and a T-shirt, was not facing a pass rush and knew exactly what he was going to do with every snap. That is what makes reaching conclusions in these matters so difficult.
Darnold unquestionably passed all the performance tests. Now the Browns have to find out about Sam Darnold, the person. Is he the guy the club wants to be the face of the franchise some day? What makes him tick?
The Browns were reportedly put off by Darnold’s laid-back manner during a brief interview with him at the combine. And he supposedly did not do well with the whiteboard.
Haslam, who sat with Darnold’s parents during the workout, got to know him a little more during dinner Tuesday night along with Dorsey and Jackson.. (Darnold had dinner Monday night with the New York Giants, who own the second pick in the draft.)
“He’s a great guy,” he said of his meeting with Haslam. “That whole staff is awesome. . . . I’m trying to impress them but at the same time be myself.”
The so-called upside on this kid – he is the youngest of the top four quarterbacks at just 20 – is off the charts. Wednesday’s performance in Cleveland-like weather conditions did not hurt his chances of being the top pick five weeks from Thursday night.
If in fact Dorsey writes Darnold’s name on the first card for Commissioner Roger Goodell to read, the tipping point very well might be how well he did on a rainy late March afternoon in Southern California.