Clay Helton: Sam Darnold isn’t “anywhere near a finished product”

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During a recent visit to PFT Live, USC coach Clay Helton provided an assessment of former USC quarterback Sam Darnold, explaining both his best attributes and the areas in which he needs to improve.

“Having been around Sam, I think he has all the qualities that we look for in our organization in a quarterback,” Helton said. “One, he has unbelievable intangibles. Leadership, representing the organization on a daily basis. His consistency and stability each and every day when he comes into the workplace. I think he’s second to none. He has all the mechanical aspects. Good decision-maker, gets the ball out on time, and provides great accuracy at the position. At the end of the day, I’ve always thought great quarterbacks just win and produce. When you look at since that kid has been the starter here, I think he’s like 20-3 and has won a Rose Bowl, has won a Pac 12 title. He has just made us a better football team. No matter what organization is lucky enough to get him, he is going to make that organization better. Just by his character, by his play, and what he stands for on a day-to-day basis.”

So where can he get better?

“I think for him, and what’s the beauty about him, I think his ceiling is so high. I don’t think he’s anywhere near a finished product. He has literally only five semesters at USC. One of the things that I thought he really improved on from day one ’til now is his recognition of defenses, whether it was front, coverages, having to read [the middle linebacker], diagnosing coverages to see where the one-on-one matchup [is], and letting the ball go. I don’t think he has a frailty in anything. I just think the more he gets reps, the more he develops, especially with the looks that are given in the NFL, I think he’s gonna be a prize. I really do. I look forward to continuing to watch his development, his knowledge of the game. The one thing the kid does do I’ll give him credit he lets the ball go with no hesitation. That’s a sign of the great quarterbacks is being that anticipatory thrower and that’s what he is.” 

Helton admitted that, selfishly, he would have preferred that Darnold return for another year, but Helton believed that, regardless of whether Darnold chose to stay or to leave, he couldn’t have gone wrong. The next question for Darnold will be where he goes in the draft, and where he’s selected in relation to the other top quarterbacks — Josh Rosen, Josh Allen, Baker Mayfield, and Lamar Jackson.

8 responses to “Clay Helton: Sam Darnold isn’t “anywhere near a finished product”

  1. The Browns are in an odd predicament. If they take Darnold (or Allen), they lose Barkley (Giants). But there is a chance if they take Barkley, they can still get Darnold or Allen. The dilemma is, if they love one QB more than the other.

    I think Allen looking so good at the Combine, (personally, the 56% is hard to look past) can help the Browns as the Jets and Broncos will trade into 3 for one of them, giving the Browns a 50-50 chance.

    Worst case scenario, is they get Allen or Rosen. If they love Mayfield, they shouldn’t get cute. Just take him. I hate that trade back. If you love someone and they’re sitting in your lap, you seize the moment. In love and in business. Greed kills.

    Not sure I would take a Barkley first, considering that he will definitely bring them wins and make their QB better but if he is a bust or gets hurt, it will set them back. Especially if the QB they prefer, is gone at 4.

    So take the QB you love and take the best RB available at the top of round 2. Plenty of RB’s who are stars from round two down. Plenty of QB’s who are not. Let’s not forget the impact player at pick4 for the D. Or a trade down (not too far).

    You never know, the Giants may trade out of 2 and you would definitely end up with Barkley at 4. Or they can take Minkha and still choose the best RB at the top of round 2.

    This is going to be one of the most interesting draft in years.

  2. Yeah….as a Browns fan, I still take Barkley at #1 then take my chances at #4 – or 3 if you trade up. I am not particularly impressed with Darnold, and I still don’t think there’s huge separation in this class. I am more concerned about Darnold’s turnovers than I am about Allen’s completion percentage. I think you take the best available player and then adjust as you move through the draft.

  3. For the life of me, I don’t understand why he is considered to be drafted as high as he is. However, QB’s in this league are a crapshoot. He is a bigger project than Lamar Jackson.

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