Should Sam Darnold stay at USC or go to the NFL?

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Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy

Should Sam Darnold stay at USC? Or should the quarterback take his chances in the NFL? Here are the pros and cons of each scenario.

While he came into the season as the front-runner for the Heisman Memorial Trophy and the projected No. 1 overall pick in the draft, Sam Darnold’s redshirt sophomore season hasn’t lived up to expectations.

In the midst of a good, but not great campaign, it remains unclear if he will declare for the NFL, or more importantly, if he should.

Here’s a breakdown the reasons to go and reasons to stay:

Going to the NFL

Pros:

Darnold has prototypical size and strength for the NFL at 6-foot-4, 225 pounds. He has elite arm strength and quick feet, capable of making all the throws necessary to succeed at the next level.

His demeanor never changes; he is calm whether the game is close, his team is down, or if his team is crushing the other team. He is a proven leader, showing in his first season that he could get the team to rally around him after a 1-3 start.

Most important, while Darnold has a strong desire to win, he is not a prima donna; he avoids aggrandizing himself and gives credit to his team and his coaches.

In terms of a pro comparison, Darnold’s play is similar to that of Ben Roethlisberger, with the ability to make something out of nothing and capable of hitting throws on the run.

Cons:

While Darnold has all the tools to be successful at the next level, there are still many things he needs to work on.

First, Darnold has not played much football, with less than two full seasons of starting experience.

Second, while Darnold has the arm strength to make all the throws, his deep ball accuracy is still suspect, and his touch needs improvement, especially in the red zone.

Darnold’s greatest strength, his ability to make a play when a play isn’t there, is also his major weakness. At the college level, Darnold is not playing against NFL-level defensive backs every week, and yet he has thrown 11 interceptions so far this season, many of which involved poor decision-making and could have been avoided.

Finally, Darnold distributes the ball well to his receivers, but he does have a tendency at times to stare down targets and not go through his progressions. At the college level, he can be bailed out by having top-end receivers; he likely will not have that luxury in the NFL, especially if he were to go to the Cleveland Browns.

Those are the pros and cons of Darnold going to the NFL, but what about the pros and cons of him staying college for at least one more year?

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