Sam Darnold can be 'out-of-nowhere' 49ers surprise, Louis Riddick relays

Riddick relays why Darnold can be 'out-of-nowhere' surprise originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

The 49ers again face plenty of quarterback uncertainty heading into the 2023 NFL season.

Brock Purdy, who made a splash in his rookie debut last season, is coming off a March elbow surgery. Trey Lance still seeks meaningful snaps under center after an ankle injury derailed what would have been his first starting campaign in 2022, and the team also brought in veteran backup Brandon Allen this month.

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And then, there's 49ers newcomer Sam Darnold. After injuries and inconsistent play with the New York Jets and Carolina Panthers, the former No. 3 overall draft pick finds himself looking for a fresh start with San Francisco. The QB depth chart is up in the air as training camp approaches, but ESPN's Louis Riddick was told by a trusted QB evaluator the 49ers Faithful should keep an eye on Darnold.

"We don’t quite know what Brock is going to look like coming off of injury heading into training camp. We don’t quite know what’s even going on with Trey Lance," Riddick said Tuesday on "The Rich Eisen Show." "I’ll tell you what, I had someone tell me this just recently. They believe that Sam Darnold, in that match with [49ers coach] Kyle Shanahan and out there in San Francisco, that could finally be the spot that totally makes him become the out-of-nowhere surprise of the year.

"I had someone who I trust explicitly when it comes to quarterback play [tell me that]. I’m telling you, I said to him, I was like, ‘What?!’ They’re like, ‘Just trust me on this one.’ "

Riddick's unnamed Darnold truther isn't alone in believing the tools are there for the QB to succeed, especially given the star-studded 49ers roster he'll be surrounded by in Shanahan's system. The coach lauded Darnold's arm talent last Wednesday during the Dwight Clark Legacy event in San Jose.


But Shanahan especially knows that's not all it takes.

"There are only a few people on this planet who can throw at the level that you need to throw at to succeed in this league,” Shanahan said. “Sam is one of those guys who can throw like that. That’s why Jimmy [Garoppolo] was a second-round draft pick coming from Eastern Illinois, because he was such a gifted thrower. And then it’s how do you play after that.”

RELATED: Orlovsky believes Darnold can lead 49ers back to NFC title game

As Eisen pointed out to Riddick, the 49ers have made it to the NFC Championship Game two straight seasons despite questions at the QB position. Purdy took over for an injured Garoppolo in 2022 and helped lead them there, and Lance certainly has the ceiling to do so himself this season.


But a lot of those questions will be answered in camp come late July, and Riddick believes Purdy won't be fully recovered in time, leading to Darnold beating out Lance for the starting role come Week 1.

If Riddick's trusted QB evaluator is correct, the newest 49ers signal-caller might just shock the NFL world.

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