Sam Darnold Declares for 2018 NFL Draft Minutes After Josh Rosen

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistJanuary 4, 2018

LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 16:  Sam Darnold #14 of the USC Trojans makes a pass during the fourth quarter against the Texas Longhorns at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on September 16, 2017 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

USC quarterback Sam Darnold announced Wednesday he's forgoing his final two years of eligibility with the Trojans to enter the 2018 NFL draft. 

His announcement came minutes after UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen declared, as Greg Beacham the Associated Press noted:

Darnold rose to prominence with a terrific redshirt freshman campaign in 2016. He completed 67.2 percent of his throws for 3,086 yards with 31 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He added 250 yards and two scores on the ground.

The 20-year-old California native followed that up by posting 4,143 passing yards, 26 TD tosses and 13 picks across 14 games in 2017. He also had 11 fumbles, however, which raised questions about his ability to protect the ball despite his obvious upside as a passer.

"His delivery still needs to be cleaned up, but his accuracy is phenomenal," ESPN's Todd McShay wrote in November. "He is the most complete quarterback in college football and a potential franchise signal-caller, if he decides to enter the draft."

In July, as conversation about his potential placement atop draft boards started to heat up, including whether NFL teams would initially tank their season for a better chance to land him, Darnold made it clear on SportsCenter his future wasn't set in stone, per Max Meyer of NFL.com.

"I don't think any team should tank their season because of me," Darnold said. "I'm just taking this every day, one day at a time and that's all I can do."

There were also mixed signals about his intentions during the college season.

Albert Breer of The MMQB told Fox Sports Radio in late September he "heard pretty strongly" the quarterback was planning to enter the 2018 draft class. In early October, however, Greg Gabriel‏ of Pro Football Weekly received word from scouts the Trojans star was planning to stay in school.

The uncertainty added more intrigue leading up to the QB's announcement.

Ultimately, Darnold decided to make the early jump to the NFL. While there are legitimate concerns about his decision-making ability and elongated throwing motion, his arm talent is clearly special, and he has the athleticism to make plays on the move.

The draft process is going to play a key role in determining where he lands on draft day. He possesses the tools and upside to become the top overall selection, but he'll need a strong showing in the coming months given the crowded, competitive nature of the 2018 QB class.