Staying at USC
Unlike last year where he lost three starting offensive linemen to the NFL, only center Nico Falah will graduate this year, with left tackle Toa Lobendahn likely sliding over to take his place. So Darnold will have a veteran line to protect him.
Also, since he has built chemistry with receivers Tyler Vaughns and Michael Pittman, tight ends Tyler Petite, Daniel Imatorbhebhe and Josh Falo, and running back Stephen Carr, he will enter the 2018 season with trustworthy weapons rather than trying to build an understanding with receivers like he has this year.
Due to this, Darnold will have the ability to work on his deep ball and his decision-making rather than wondering if a receiver will catch the ball.
While he did not lead his team to the College Football Playoff this year, if he returns he will have an excellent opportunity to do that with the talent that returns, and will again be a front-runner for the Heisman.
The only real con of returning to college for Darnold will be risk of injury. Matt Barkley returned in 2012 and did not finish the season after being injured in the UCLA game.
Coming back also dropped Barkley’s stock. While he had been projected to be a top pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, due to a lackluster season, injury, and questions about his playing ability he dropped out of the first round altogether and was drafted in the fourth round. Darnold has been hampered by an ankle injury this season, so the risk of injury is a real concern.
So what should Darnold do? Should he stay or should he go?