When this year’s crop of NFL quarterback prospects gather on the field inside Lucas Oil Stadium on Saturday to throw for coaches and evaluators at the annual Combine, at least one prominent name won’t be among them: Sam Darnold.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Tuesday morning that Darnold is opting not to throw at the Combine, and will only throw at his pro day at the University of Southern California on March 21.
This represents a change for Darnold: during an appearance on WFAN during Super Bowl week, the 20-year-old California native said he did plan on throwing at the Combine.
Three of the other top-rated quarterbacks in this year’s draft: Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, UCLA’s Josh Rosen and Wyoming’s Josh Allen, are all expected to take part in the passing drills part of player evaluation.
There is no word yet on whether Louisville’s Lamar Jackson will throw at the Combine.
Given the antiquated groupthink many teams and front offices subscribe to, it’s easy to wonder if Darnold is hurting himself with the decision; it’s easy to see some evaluators say – or see stories from league sources – saying that Darnold is afraid to compete or some such thing, despite starting 20 games for USC over the last two years, a 64-9 percent completion mark and 57-to-22 touchdown-to-interception ratio in that time.
While a few years ago it wasn’t unheard of for the top quarterbacks to do as Darnold is doing and only throw at their pro day – neither Johnny Manziel nor Teddy Bridgewater threw at the 2014 Combine – Darnold is definitely bucking a recent trend. Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota both threw in 2015, Jared Goff and Carson Wentz threw two years ago, and last year all of the first-round quarterbacks did as well.
At the Combine, quarterbacks are throwing to unfamiliar receivers, and on campus, they can control more of the variables, including working with receivers they’re comfortable with and in an environment they’re used to being in. Of course, he’ll be thrown into a completely new situation when he’s drafted, but during the pre-draft process players want to put themselves in the best light possible.