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Should NFL teams be tanking for quarterbacks Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen?

Josh Rosen, Sam Darnold
Jayne Kamin-Oncea, Gary A. Vasquez/ USA Today Sports

Los Angles has been blessed with two of the best quarterback prospects in the nation in USC’s Sam Darnold and UCLA’s Josh Rosen. As it sits right now, these young signal-callers will likely go number 1 and number 2 overall in 2018 NFL Draft, respectively. Are either of these quarterbacks worth tanking for? 

Before we answer that, let us dive into the backgrounds of both of these players.

Sam Darnold

Background

In 2016, Darnold threw for 3,086 yards, with 31 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. He had a rough going in the early part of the season but quickly regrouped and led the Trojans to nine-straight victories, including a spectacular 52-49 win over Penn State in the Rose Bowl. Darnold threw for 453 yards, five touchdowns, and just one interception in that game.

Pros: He’s a big, strong kid that can stand in the pocket and isn’t afraid to get hit. He has the ability to throw deep throws with accuracy and he’s not afraid to let his wide receivers go up and get the ball. He has great leadership skills and a strong locker room presence.

Cons: I’m not sure if he can consistently make accurate throws to short and intermediate routes. He’s still very raw and needs time to develop. Additionally, he plays in a spread offense; not sure how that will translate to the NFL:.

Player comparison: Radio personality Colin Cowherd of The Herd said that he thinks Darnold is Brett Favre with a touch of Andrew Luck.

 

Josh Rosen

Background

On the other side of the spectrum, Rosen missed a large chunk of the 2016 season with a shoulder injury that required surgery. He finished the year with 1915 passing yards, 10 touchdowns, and five interceptions in six games. By the numbers, Rosen is inferior to Darnold, but numbers don’t always give you the whole picture. The Bruins went 1-5 without Rosen in 2016, which signifies that Rosen is huge part of their success.

It seems like an obvious observation, but the dynamics of college football and the NFL  arevery different. In most cases, the second string guys are very close to the levels of the starters. Example: When Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett went down, Braxton Miller was able to replace him, and when Miller went down, Cardale Jones was able to replace him, winning the National Championship game after topping both Alabama and Oregon. So, in those regards the disparity, between the starters and backups aren’t nearly as big.

Pros: Rosen is refined, plays in a pro-style offense, and he has above average football IQ. He is a pure-pocket passer and can deliver all the throws necessary in the NFL and has an above-average arm.

Cons: Josh has ideal size for a quarterback but he’s slender, lacks poise in the pocket, and shies away from hits at times. He had a significant shoulder injury, as noted, but the biggest question mark is his leadership skills and intangibles.

Player comparison: High-end Matt Ryan, according to Cowherd.

 

That is an abridged version of the scouting report on both Darnold and Rosen.

So, are Darnold and Rosen worth tanking for? The answer is a resounding yes.

Why they should tank for Darnold/Rosen

If you are a team like the Jacksonville Jaguars or New York Jets, who are both awful offensively and are in need of a quarterback, these are the guys to take.

In today’s NFL, if you don’t have a franchise quarterback, you aren’t even really in the conversation of contending for a title. Obviously, there are exceptions, but in the last 10 Super Bowls, no team without a true franchise quarterback has won.

Having said that, the 2018 quarterback class will be special; you can make the argument that it is going to be the best one since the 2004 draft that featured New York Giants QB Eli Manning, San Diego Chargers QB Philip Rivers (now Los Angeles), and Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger. You can also throw in Atlanta Falcons backup QB Matt Schaub on this list as well, he was very productive for the Houston Texans years ago.

I am not saying that Darnold or Rosen will become any of those quarterbacks named, but rather, I’m stating that they have the potential to be.

Some will argue about the possibility of them not panning out as expected, but you can say that about any player. Darnold and Rosen have received high praise by many, and teams don’t take that lightly.

So, it is worth the gamble. What is worse: releasing the player in four years if they don’t pan out, or regretting missing out on a quarterback that can anchor your team for the next 15 years? In this case, the possible reward outweighs the risk.

Overview

Darnold and Rosen have the talent and ability to be successful NFL quarterbacks. But, often times, personnel, team environment, and other factors come into play when determining if they live up to their potential. Whether or not the Jaguars or the Jets have the right pieces in place at other position groups is one thing. But, it is still worth the risk to find out. At the very worst, either of these quarterbacks will already be better than the guys they currently have on their rosters.

Stay tuned…