It was recently reported that the Cleveland Browns were deciding between two players for the first overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft: University of Southern California’s quarterback Sam Darnold and Wyoming’s quarterback Josh Allen. Some feel that Darnold is the “safer” pick, while others feel that Allen is the more deserving. So who should the pick be if it’s between these two? Time for a comparison.
In the NFL, the right body can be the difference between merely surviving in the league and having a legendary career. While exceptions in height have existed, like New Orleans Saints’ quarterback Drew Brees and Seattle Seahawks’ quarterback Russell Wilson, it’s more likely that the 6-foot-3-inch average is ideal. Both Darnold and Allen meet the average, with Darnold being 6’3 and Allen being 6’5. Allen does hold the advantage however by having longer arms, bigger hands and more weight. While both quarterbacks meet the ideal framework, it’s Allen who holds a slight advantage.
Point: Josh Allen
At the combine and his pro day, Josh Allen wooed scouts by being able to throw the ball 70 yards down field. While that’s become heavily desirable in the NFL, his inaccuracy isn’t. During his three years at Wyoming, the highest completion percentage he had: 56.3%. While people claim it’s because he didn’t have great wide receivers to work with, Wyoming wide receivers had a drop percentage of only 4.8%. Translation: he missed the targets. While it’s possible that he can improve at the professional level, especially with a mentor in front of him; it’s something that should not be glossed over.
Meanwhile, Darnold showed that he can throw deep and that he can be accurate. The USC product has more of a balance of arm strength and accuracy. His issue is his release. When he throws, his wind up takes a while despite the velocity of the ball coming out. Scouts have theorized that his delivery can tip players off to what’s going to happen next. While it can be a risk, it’s something that can be fixed, especially with the right the teacher.
While Allen has the bigger arm, his accuracy will be a bigger factor than what people give it credit for. Quarterbacks that have had a completion percentage of 58 or less, since 2000: Ken Dorsey, Jay Cutler, J.P. Losman, Kyle Boller, Matthew Stafford, Patrick Ramsey, and Tyrod Taylor. It’s better to have more balance rather than lean farther to one direction.
Point: Sam Darnold
A quarterback that can’t make decisions is one that will ultimately hurt a team in the trenches. One mark against Darnold was his interceptions in college. He had 13 last season, and nine the season before. In the same amount of starting time for Allen, he’s thrown 21 interceptions. What this ultimately means is that the interceptions are kind of wash. Both need help with decision making. However, there’s still issues with their heads. Darnold had a small tendency to rush throws at times, as well as not sliding when he needs. Meanwhile on the other side of the dime, Allen has an issue with relying on his arm too much. While he can make plays with his legs, there were quite a few times he relied on his arm and tried to be the hero. He also tried to make throws before he was ready, even to the point where he didn’t have his feet set. However the biggest knock is probably the most damaging: he needs work on his pre-snap game plan. Scouts have said that before he takes the snap, he seems unfocused. If that’s accurate, that’s really going to hurt him as a quarterback as pre-snap play is just as big as in action play.
Point: Sam Darnold
This is hard to determine as everyone has a different opinion on upsides. Darnold has been said all offseason to have the highest upside on a level playing field, with Allen having the highest upside overall. To the naked eye, that makes no sense. However when it gets down to it, Allen doesn’t have the floor that Darnold has. Allen is said to have the highest upside with the lowest floor, which makes him the biggest “boom or bust” player in this draft. It can lead to him either being a star or being a dud. Looking at comparisons, Allen is said to be similar to Jake Locker, as well as others who didn’t pan out including Jamarcus Russell and Paxton Lynch. On the flip side, one executive claims he saw a Ben Roethlisberger clone. Darnold meanwhile has been mainly compared to Andrew Luck, however he’s been in the company of Tony Romo, Jared Goff, even Brett Favre.
Point: Sam Darnold
“The Big One”:
When it comes down to the big stage, the big games are the most important. Against Power Five schools, Allen struggled in the two games he played last year. One game against Oregon, he threw for 64 yards and an interception. Against Iowa he fared better, throwing for 174 yards, but still threw two interceptions. While playing in a bigger school means nothing, struggling against them in a small sample size is not good.
Some fans use Darold’s bowl game against Ohio State as the marker for his potential. He still threw for 356 yards, against a defense who allowed an average of 301 yards per game. Since he took over starting duties for the Trojans, Darnold only had one game where he threw for under 200 yards, and that was against Washington State. He played better teams on bigger stages.
While Allen may have played in weather more similar to Cleveland, it means nothing when you can’t handle the pressure of the big game. Allen has one win in five games against Power Five teams, while Darnold has 18 wins in 19 starts.
Point: Sam Darnold
Allen isn’t bad, and could be a good prospect but it seems that he could be viewed as someone with a big body and a big arm that could never fully materialize. Though Darnold goes to a school that hasn’t had the best reputation for quarterbacks in the NFL, he seems like the safer pick. Both quarterbacks can’t be rushed and could pan out with the right guidance. That said, the winner of this comparison, USC’s Sam Darnold by a score of 4 to 1.