USC quarterback Sam Darnold is the consensus No. 1 pick in early 2018 NFL mock drafts from around the web.
The 2017 NFL Draft finished up on Saturday, so naturally draft experts have already turned around and released “way too early” mock drafts for the 2018 NFL Draft.
The one constant across just about all of those 2018 NFL mock drafts? Sam Darnold is No. 1.
The redshirt sophomore set the college football world on fire in January with a near-perfect performance in the fourth quarter of the 2017 Rose Bowl.
Darnold led the Trojans on a stunning comeback against Penn State, going 10-for-10 on passes in the final period while dropping in a pinpoint accurate pass over the middle for Deontay Burnett to tie the game with just over a minute remaining.
With an uncanny ability to avoid the pass rush and a rocket arm capable of making all the NFL throws, Darnold has pro scouts’ mouths watering even though he technically has three years of college eligibility remaining.
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The assumption for the time being is that Darnold will leave USC after this season, having completed the necessary three years at the college level, with the No. 1 spot as his for the taking.
There’s a bigger variance on which team will be there to take him, than on which player will go first in 2018.
Alec Nathan of Bleacher Report thinks it’ll be the Cleveland Browns waiting for Darnold at No. 1, using Super Bowl odds in reverse to determine the order. UCLA’s Josh Rosen and Penn State’s Saquon Barkley follow soon after at No. 2 and 3 respectively.
Dan Kadar of SBNation also projects Darnold to the Browns as the first pick overall despite the second round selection of DeShone Kizer this year. A run on quarterbacks continues behind Darnold with Rosen to the 49ers and Wyoming’s Josh Allen to the Jets.
Walter Cherepinksy of WalterFootball.com shakes things up with the Rams at No. 1, but he’s also on board the Darnold train, even though Los Angeles grabbed Jared Goff just last year.
For Eric Galko of Sporting News, Darnold is also destined to go first, but to the New York Jets.
In each of those mock drafts, Darnold is the only Trojan considered in the first round, but Yardbarker’s Seth Trachtman includes another USC prospect.
After projecting Darnold to come off the board at No. 1 to the San Francisco 49ers, Trachtman sees the Tennessee Titans making it an annual tradition to grab a Trojan in the first round, selecting linebacker Cameron Smith at No. 17.
Over at Fox Sports, Dieter Kurtenbach took things a step further by projecting two rounds of the 2018 draft.
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He too has Darnold going first to the Jets. While the QB is the only USC player to be drafted in the first round, cornerback Iman Marshall gets a mention at No. 42, in the second round to the Arizona Cardinals.
Marshall is followed by a run on Trojans, with Smith at No. 45 to the Indianapolis Colts, then running back Ronald Jones II to the Atlanta Falcons at No. 57 and outside linebacker Porter Gustin to the Titans at No. 60.
The takeaway from these mock drafts, besides the consensus that Darnold will go No. 1 if he comes out? There aren’t many seniors for USC on the NFL radar right now — Fox Sports’ mock included five Trojans in the first two rounds, all early entrants.
An All-American season from strongside linebacker Uchenna Nwosu could change that, or a fully healthy campaign from offensive lineman Toa Lobendahn. However, USC’s championship hype for 2017 is firmly built around Darnold, a strong junior class and other exciting underclassmen.
The Trojans can only hope Darnold delivers on that mock draft hype by continuing to put in top performances through the 2017 season. If so, he may add to USC’s trophy cabinet while also adding to their record five No. 1 picks in NFL draft history.