From the minute the 2017 NFL Draft concluded, the assumption for next year’s selection weekend has been that USC quarterback Sam Darnold will be the first player off the board.
Most experts rate Darnold as their top quarterback on the eve of the 2017 college football season, and for good reason. Despite last season being his first as a starter, Darnold possesses all the tools NFL scouts covet in a quarterback.
Those scouts could be watching Darnold on Saturdays for another season or two.
According to NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah, the Trojan starter is no lock to declare for the 2018 NFL Draft regardless of his preseason grade.
“I also had several sources close to Darnold tell me they wouldn’t be surprised if Darnold played two more seasons at USC,” Jeremiah wrote. “As a redshirt sophomore, he can declare for the draft as early as 2018.”
Quarterback-needy teams, especially ones destined for a long and difficult NFL season in 2017, can’t be thrilled with the news. That said, and even without Darnold in next year’s draft, the 2018 class will be loaded with franchise-caliber quarterbacks, assuming they declare.
This is the real danger of evaluating draft classes in the preseason when the strength of a particular position is made up of underclassmen. A historically strong group can turn into a cluster of fringe prospects overnight.