Sam Darnold won't stump to be top pick: 'That's for other people to decide'

INDIANAPOLIS – Baker Mayfield talked about being “the best to ever play.” Sam Darnold wouldn’t even campaign for himself to be the first pick of this year’s draft.

If Mayfield’s exuberance and unending confidence rubs a team the wrong way, that team will probably love Darnold. If someone wanted Darnold to pound the podium at the NFL scouting combine and say he should be the first pick of the draft, that wasn’t going to happen. He was asked a few times if he was the best quarterback in the draft, or if he should be the first pick, and every time he said it didn’t really matter to him.

“I don’t think it’s my position to be talking about anyone else or say I’m the best quarterback in the draft. I think that’s for other people to decide,” Darnold said. “I’m just here to put my best foot forward and really just give it my all and show teams why I should be with their organization. If they don’t want me, they don’t want me. It’s not my decision to make. I’m just going to continue to be myself, because it has gotten me to this point.”

For whatever it’s worth, Mayfield, Josh Rosen and Josh Allen all said they felt they were the best quarterback in the draft. That’s pretty standard for top prospects. After Mayfield and Louisville’s Lamar Jackson entertained the media with their honesty and confidence, Darnold’s low-key news conference was a bit dull. That’s just his style.

“I really just want to prove to people I’m capable of leading a franchise. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be the No. 1 team. It can be any team,” Darnold said. “Throughout the process I’m just going to continue to be myself and if a team happens to fall in love me with me and take me No. 1, or they take me wherever in the draft, I’d be happy to go anywhere.”

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Darnold not wanting to proclaim himself the best quarterback in the draft probably isn’t important. The more important issues to whether Darnold becomes the first pick of the draft are his turnover problem at USC, and perhaps a throwing motion that can be a bit long. He’s only planning to fix one of those.

On the throwing motion, Darnold said he’s not changing. There was speculation that Darnold didn’t want to throw at the scouting combine (he’s the only one of the top four quarterbacks who won’t throw) because he was revamping a throwing motion that has been described as “looping.” But Darnold isn’t revamping how he throws the ball. He said a mechanical fix to bring his hip through when he throws, rather than using all arm on deep passes, is one thing he’ll change. The throwing motion will stay.

“No, I’m not trying to change my throwing motion at all,” Darnold said. I think I get the ball off pretty quick. There is kind of a windup, but I think I get it off pretty quick and that’s the only thing that really matters to me.”

His motion might concern some scouts. His turnovers will concern any team, and he knows that. Darnold had 13 interceptions and lost nine fumbles last season at USC.

“The No. 1 priority of a quarterback is to protect the football. I’m aware of that, and I’m aware of how much I turned the ball over, and that it’s not OK,” Darnold said. “I’ve been addressing it this offseason.”

Darnold said he is focusing on keeping both hands on the football in the pocket, which can cut down on fumbles. The interceptions sometimes were due to decision making, he said.

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Darnold isn’t without some warts, but he’s clearly talented enough to be the top pick of the draft. NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said he has Darnold as his No. 1 quarterback, which would obviously put him in play for the first overall pick.

“I think he’s got plus size, plus arm strength, outstanding athlete, and I really like the way he extends plays inside and outside of the pocket,” Mayock said in a conference call.

Darnold wasn’t too thrilling in front of a microphone, but he’s an exciting prospect. He talked about how his instincts are his best trait, and those are on display along with his athleticism when he manufactured plays at USC. Darnold will go high in the draft, and could be a team’s starter from his first game on.

“I think I’m ready,” Darnold said. “Obviously there’s still some work to do … but I think I’m as ready as I can be.”

Southern California quarterback Sam Darnold had a great 2016 season, then struggled a bit in 2017. (AP)
Southern California quarterback Sam Darnold had a great 2016 season, then struggled a bit in 2017. (AP)

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Frank Schwab is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!