Scouts concerned about hits for Saquon Barkley, Darnold's picks

Our analysts are constantly talking to NFL and college sources about players in the college game. This week, NFL.com analyst Lance Zierlein shares some of what NFL folks are saying about two of the nation's top talents, Penn State RB Saquon Barkley and USC QB Sam Darnold.

The scoop: "He's as good as Ezekiel Elliott and I thought Elliot was the best player in the draft when he came out. The one thing that really worries me about (Saquon) Barkley is the hits he takes. (He's in) big collisions all the time. He has to learn how to slip some of those to preserve his career. That's where Elliott has a leg up on him." -- College scouting director for NFL team on the Penn State RB

The skinny: As for the comp, based on their build and effectiveness in every phase of the game, I believe likening Barkley to Elliott from a talent perspective is very fair.

The other point raised by the scouting director is a very interesting one. We get so caught up with Barkley's jaw-dropping cuts that sometimes it's easy to look past how violently he finishes his runs. He leaves his feet frequently and did so again last weekend with a spectacular leap over an Iowa defender. At the next level, he might need to dial that back and take a greater interest in protecting himself while picking and choosing his spots to engage tacklers.

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The scoop: An NFL scout in attendance at the USC-Cal game last weekend expressed concern about Trojans QB Sam Darnold's decision making and subsequent interceptions.

The skinny: While Darnold has NFL size, mobility and arm strength, his interceptions are beginning to mount. Darnold has 14 INTs over his last 10 games, dating back to late October of last season, and his penchant for occasionally staring down receivers is starting to get him in trouble.

While everyone loved Deshaun Watson's on-field production and performances against Alabama in back-to-back national championship games, it was hard not to circle back to his inconsistencies with decision making and his high interception count (17 in 2016) during the evaluation process leading up to the 2017 draft. If Darnold doesn't dial back his interceptions, we will be having similar discussions about him whenever he elects to enter the draft.

Follow Lance Zierlein on Twitter @LanceZierlein.

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