INDIANAPOLIS – UCLA’s Josh Rosen may have already pulled off a win this week. And USC’s Sam Darnold may have been the guy who delivered it.
That’s the consensus of a handful of NFL evaluators who are still digesting the news that
“It’s really good for [Rosen],” one evaluator said. “He’s already suited to looking great in this kind of a passing workout, while Darnold is more of a, ‘When the [game] lights turn on’ kind of guy. But [Darnold not throwing] will definitely be a good thing for Josh.”
In fairness, if Darnold is already rooted as the top pick in the draft, an isolated decision to bypass throwing at the combine isn’t likely to change that. But several evaluators pointed out that it creates a performance and competition void that will be filled by another top player. More specifically, by Rosen, who is universally expected to be the most polished and impressive passer in drills this week.
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Should Rosen show up and blow away the drills, it could influence a team like the Cleveland Browns or New York Giants – who hold the top two picks in the draft – to take a longer look at Rosen. And that kind of gaze is an opportunity that past top picks didn’t want to leave on the table for competitors. It’s why Jared Goff threw against Carson Wentz at the combine in 2016 and Jameis Winston insisted on throwing against Marcus Mariota in 2015. Despite being the likely No. 1 overall pick, those players still had a chance to allow someone else to crack that certainty.
Winston was a good example of a player sewing up the process by simply competing. When he exited drills against Mariota, a few executives were impressed with the way he verbally pumped up unfamiliar wide receivers in the drill and even tried to hype up and challenge Mariota to raise his game. Winston looked like he was enjoying the competitive aspect of the drill – and that left a lasting impression. It was a small but important example of how passing drills at the combine can encompass so much more than the throws (although those are also fairly important).
l a strong favorite to be the No. 1 pick in