A little more than 20 minutes after Josh Rosen announced his decision to enter the draft in a thankful letter posted to Twitter on Wednesday, Sam Darnold delivered a farewell speech in a wonderful video via Instagram. Congratulate them, if you like, on their lofty achievements and express best wishes to them in their new endeavors but it wasn’t smart of them to declare for the 2018 NFL Draft.
It’s only what everybody had long been anticipating since the hype around this year’s class of quarterback prospects had been turned up to FULL BLAST. As you’d have expected from two highly-touted quarterbacks, they both decided to leave school on the same day, forgoing their final years of eligibility. Most believe they’ve shown a lot of promise and potential but could use a little more seasoning.
This isn’t to say they both have the tools of a full-fledged quarterback to be the most valuable asset to an inferior NFL team planning for the future. If the wretched Cleveland Browns take a shot on Darnold with the first pick, they could extend their own bleak stretch of futility. If the dysfunctional New York Giants roll the dice on Rosen, they could fall deeper into the burning pit of misery. Neither have come into full bloom for this year’s draft.
So, no, they are not fully grown to hang with the big boys because they’re still, well, babies wetting their Pull-Ups. Regardless of whether guaranteed money is sitting on the table, with both Darnold and Rosen viewed as the potential No. 1 and No. 2 quarterbacks, inexplicably, in the 2018 NFL Draft, the two California prospects are not the most polished quarterbacks capable of making the smoothest transition to the next level.
Because there simply are people foolishly branding him as a franchise quarterback, which is absolutely asinine and silly, the universal consensus is that Rosen is the top choice in this year’s draft, then Darnold. A concern for any team in immediate need of an elite passer is Darnold and Rosen’s disastrous production and inconsistencies. That’s exactly why they are both a bit of a mystery heading into the draft.
Based on Darnold’s ill-advised throws that resulted in turnovers, he needed more time to develop and refine his skills and should have stayed in school. The worst game of the season, and possibly his career, came in Arlington where Darnold ended his career with three turnovers in the Trojans’ 24-7 loss to Ohio State in the Cotton Bowl. He’s still young and has a great arm, but he’s reckless with the ball in his hands.
Seeing that he missed a game at Utah on Nov. 3 with a concussion and missed the final six games last season due to a shoulder injury, Rosen could end up being a bust. The final game of the season, and obviously his career, came in the Arizona desert, where he sat out UCLA’s Cactus Bowl under doctors’ orders after suffering a concussion late in the season. He’s got a sharp mind to read defenses and make the right decisions, but he’s injury prone and missed a good chunk of the 2016 season with an injured shoulder.
This year’s list of quarterback prospects is the greatest travesty. But the truth is Darnold and Rosen, dogged by the lingering questions about their NFL decisions, are surely in the running to be taken high by the Browns, Giants, Colts, Broncos, Jets or Bills. The talent is promising, so it’s not hard to see why a bunch of teams have shown interest in Darnold and Rosen.
Let’s face it. Some players chose NFL riches over college. There’s no denying that they are unquestionably regarded as top picks in the upcoming draft. Thus they are not as advertised — they both have seemingly done an excellent job of holding their teams together. They couldn’t, ready or not, afford to risk an injury if they played an extra year of college and miss out on receiving as much as $20 million guaranteed in salary.
No prospect is promised a career long term in the pros, but no one confronted by this dilemma is turning down a nice paycheck. It may take a while for the two quarterbacks to adjust to the speed of the NFL game. Rather than spending another year in school, they are leaving behind a pile of unfinished business. Rather than reducing the learning curves they face as young signal-callers, they are walking away from USC and UCLA with nothing to show for it.
As a Trojan, Darnold steered the Trojans to a memorable victory over Penn State in last year’s Rose Bowl. He was a remarkable 20-4 as a starter, winning a Pac-12 Conference title and a Rose Bowl. As a Bruin, Rosen led a 34-point comeback against Texas A&M in the season opener. He was often sidelined due to injury and went 17-13 as a starter.
Don’t buy into the hype. They never quite —not once—lived up to it. This has been a disappointing season, occasionally good, and it wasn’t what anyone expected from the two most hyped college quarterbacks. They were billed as Heisman hopeful but never were seriously considered. Darnold and Rosen guided the city’s rivals but they couldn’t lead their programs into national title contention.
It wasn’t an easy decision to make a jump to the NFL. Darnold and Rosen are still college kids with much to learn.