LOS ANGELES -- USC's pro day Wednesday marked the last chance we will get to see former Trojans quarterback Sam Darnold in action before next month's 2018 NFL Draft. If the workout was indeed Darnold's closing argument, he made a very compelling case for why he deserves to be the first overall pick.
1) I talked to a handful of teams here at the pro day that are not picking inside the top 10 this year, and all of them said they can't see how Darnold doesn't end up being the first overall pick.
2) One of the things about pro days is they're very rehearsed and scripted, so it was fun to see Darnold react to the rainy weather Wednesday and not skip a beat. He threw the ball really well despite the conditions at the USC campus.
I watched Darnold throw during a workout on a windy day about a month ago. It was dry that day. I thought he threw it even better Wednesday in the wet weather than he did in the dry weather. He's a competitive guy, and it showed in the way he successfully overcame the elements.
Andrew Luck's pro day at Stanford in 2012 is as good of a workout as I've seen for a QB. He threw into the wind that day and looked great. Darnold does not have quite the same arm strength as Luck, but I thought Darnold's anticipation and timing were outstanding Wednesday. The touch that he displayed stood out. It was one of the better pro days I've seen.
3) This pro day received plenty of hype, and all eyes were on Darnold. He didn't throw at the NFL Scouting Combine earlier this month, which led to even more intrigue for his pro day, but unlike the combine, when he was sharing the stage with the other top passers in the draft, this day was Darnold's.
He needed to show that he could make every throw, which he easily did. He tightened up his delivery a little bit, which was good to see. He had a tendency to get a little hunched in the pocket last season, and I thought he did a much job with his balance and weight transfer on Wednesday.
His release is still a little bit long, but it's really explosive and quick. You could see that again during his workout.
4) The main issue for Darnold is fumbles, and that's still a concern even after the pro day. A workout in shorts and a T-shirt isn't a place where he can do anything to answer questions about whether he's improved in that area. You can see on tape that Darnold takes his non-throwing hand off the ball when he gets pressured. That was something you couldn't get a feel for at the pro day with no pass rushers coming at him. His turnovers are really the only issue for teams. Can you train that out of him? Most of the evaluators that I talked to here at the pro day felt like that's something they can coach. Now, I know there are some scouts that still view it as a major sticking point, but I think the majority of them are not hung up on it.
5) My player comp for Darnold is Tony Romo, and a couple league evaluators I polled this week agree that it's the best comparison for the Trojans QB. I definitely saw shades of Romo from Darnold on Wednesday. A few of the throws he made across his body looked like those Romo highlight-reel passes we've seen over the years. It was fun to watch.