The NFL Draft is almost upon us, and mock drafts are taking over websites and blogs. Regarding the quarterback class, there is a particular debate that has continued to heat up, and it involves who the true QB1 is in this 2018 draft class. There are discussions about Wyoming’s QB Josh Allen, Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, and Louisville’s Lamar Jackson, yet the biggest debate of them all could very well be between USC’s Sam Darnold and UCLA’s Josh Rosen. According to most mocks, these two could very well be the first two selections in this draft.
In order to compare and contrast, the first focus should be on their on-field talent. Starting with USC Trojans QB Sam Darnold, he threw for 57 TDs to 22 INTs with 7,229 yards. That was nothing short of impressive for the sophomore, because in the two years Darnold started with the Trojans, he went 21-6, making two bowl appearances. He then went on to win the 2016 Rose Bowl against Penn State 52-49, and lost the 2017 Cotton Bowl 24-7 to Ohio State.
The freshman year for Darnold may be viewed as the best of his time at USC, passing for 31 TDs to only 9 INTs. The following year, Darnold became a lot more “risky”, or even careless to a degree, tossing for 26 TDs and 16 INTs. One of the biggest knocks on the 20-year old QB is that he turns the ball over too often, and to be fair, 16 INTs is a huge spike to just the 9 the year prior.
On the other hand, Darnold has undeniable talent as a QB, passing for over 1,000+ yards more in his sophomore year than he did as a freshman. He definitely fits the quota to be an early round QB, but could benefit from developing behind a veteran. Eventually though, Darnold will be viewed as an efficient starter in the right system.
Moving onto UCLA’s Josh Rosen, he is often referred to has “the purest passer in this draft class”, and his statistics surely back it up. “Chosen Rosen” threw for 9,340 yards, along with 59 TDs to 26 INTs in his two and a half (he only played six games in his sophomore year) seasons with the team.
Although UCLA never really had a big season with Rosen at the helm, the team went on to win eight games in his freshman season. It became further known that UCLA became bowl eligible, but suffered defeat to Nebraska by a score of 40-26.
Unlike Darnold, Rosen’s most recent year of college would most likely be viewed as his best season, where he put up 26 TDs to only 10 INTs and 3,756 passing yards to push his draft stock to where it is today. Although Rosen did not get the double-digit win season that Darnold had at USC, some may argue that he contained the better individual stat line.
Rosen tends to take less risks than Darnold, and is a lot more relaxed under center. For better or worse, it kept him safe from INTs, but didn’t help as much in critical situations where he needed to take a risk. With that, Josh Rosen is easily one of the best quarterbacks in this class, and should be in the discussion for QB1 along with Sam Darnold.
Moving onto their personalities, beginning with Rosen, this is where some concerns arise. In fact, some scouts question his “leadership ability”, as well as his “quality of being a teammate”. Although now most scouts will say those issues have been cleaned up since the rumors of being disliked around UCLA’s locker room, they still raise some question marks for front offices around the NFL. According to certain NFL rumors, Rosen supposedly interviewed well among the Combine Meetings, and showed a fair amount of football IQ.
In regards to Sam Darnold, scouts only had nice things to say about the Trojan. The common consensus was that Darnold had the best intangibles of this draft class, and was said to have the “it factor”. In addition, he is said to lead by example, and can bring moxie to whatever locker room he may find himself to be a part of.
The fact of the matter is that Darnold could bring a true sense of NFL leadership when he is drafted, and could be a dream come true for a desperate team come draft day. In theory, it’s no wonder why he is a surefire top five draft pick.
As far as the strengths and weaknesses for Josh Rosen, they are fairly straight forward. His strengths include his rare arm talent, precision of accuracy across all levels of the field, great instincts and footwork. All the attributes an NFL GM desires in a franchise QB relates to Rosen.
As far his weaknesses, they are very limited, but his main concerns include his durability, as well as his aforementioned personality issues. If these kinks are worked out, there is no reason why Rosen couldn’t be the top quarterback of this class. While personality concerns are always a red flag among NFL front offices, the case regarding Josh Rosen seems to be exaggerated to an extent.
With Sam Darnold, he has an extremely long list of strengths that includes his ability to throw the ball across all levels of the field, ball placement, durability, the ability to avoid sacks, mobility, and the leadership skills addressed previously.
His weaknesses include his slow starts to games, as well as his ball security. Again, with Darnold, his weaknesses are extremely limited, and with growth and development under professional NFL coaching, these weaknesses can easily be changed.
It is difficult to say who is the better prospect is, as NFL fans are divided on the two prospects. At the end of the day, the majority of scouts are taking USC QB Sam Darnold. Most believe that he is the QB1 of this class with his impressive intangibles, as well as his athletic ability. There are definitely some aspects that need to be worked out with Darnold, but there is much more upside with him than the floor. He could be a plug and see a starting job in his rookie season, but it would not hurt to see him develop under a veteran QB.
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