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Should Rosen, Darnold Stay or Should They Go?

December 29th, 2017 · No Comments · College football, NFL, UCLA, USC

Two of the top quarterbacks potentially available for the 2018 NFL draft attend Los Angeles schools.

UCLA’s Josh Rosen and USC’s Sam Darnold.

Each has college eligibility remaining — one year for Rosen, two for Darnold.

Each is mulling whether to make himself available for the draft or to stay in school for another year. Each figures to be drafted in the top 10 picks and maybe the top five. And maybe the top two.

What might be involved in their thinking? What ought they to do?

Rosen is considered the top QB in the draft by several people who make a living trying to predict the annual event. Darnold is considered the No. 2 QB in some quarters.

It could happen that they go 1-2 at the top of the draft, and those two picks are likely to be held by the Cleveland Browns and New York Giants — barring those teams trading their picks.

Rosen has made clear he does not want to go to the Cleveland Browns, losers of 30 of their past 31, and could use the leverage of “another year at school” to nudge the Browns in another direction.

We have two prominent examples of quarterbacks successfully eluding teams they did not want to join.

One was in 1983, when John Elway said he would play baseball full-time if drafted by the Baltimore Colts, who nonetheless picked him first — but then traded him to the Denver Broncos, where Elway led the club to two championships.

The second was in 2004, when Eli Manning told the San Diego Chargers to leave him alone, threatening to sit out a year. The Chargers took him with the top pick but traded him to the New York Giants where he, too, won two championships.

For Rosen, his stay/go decision may come down to whether he believes the Browns will pass him by — or trade down in the draft. He said: “I’d rather be a lower pick at the right team than a higher at the wrong team.”

He would be fine with the Giants, who draft second.

Darnold’s situation is more fluid. He is well-regarded, but not necessarily top-of-the-draft regarded. Plus, he just came off a horrible outing in the Cotton Bowl, where he lost two fumbles and threw an interception returned for touchdown in a 24-7 loss to Ohio State.

That could drop him a spot or three, though his line’s horrendous performance, allowing Darnold to be sacked eight times, might be taken into account. (Think of Rams QB Jared Goff being terrorized behind his feeble 2016 line, and looking like a fine QB behind the 2017 line.)

What it comes down to?

If the two L.A. quarterbacks are set on having NFL careers … declare for the draft.

The reality is that injuries are everywhere (Rosen missed most of his sophomore season with a shoulder injury and surgery.) Another year in college exposes them to debilitating injuries without the sop of tens of millions of dollars for their trouble.

May as well get busy and play for pay. Especially when it looks like each of these guys will go in the top five. How much higher can you go? They could go a lot lower a year from now, given the risks of daily life.

The NFL awards rookie contracts on a sliding scale, with the top pick getting the most money, the No. 2 player the second-most, and on down.

In 2016, top-pick Goff got a four-year deal for $30 million, guaranteed, with $18.5 million of it delivered as a signing bonus.

If Darnold went second, he could count on a bit more money than Carson Wentz got in 2016, when the Philadelphia quarterback was No. 2 and got a four-year deal worth $26.7 million, guaranteed, with a bonus of $17.6 million.

(How quickly does the money decline? The New Orleans Saints had the final 2017 first-round pick, No. 32 overall, tackle Ryan Ramczyk. He got a four-year deal worth $8.9 million, with a $4.6 million bonus. Less than half the money the No. 2 got two years ago.)

So, if Rosen and Darnold are ready to climb on the NFL injury merry-go-round, do it now. Sure, if they last long enough they can count on a knee surgery or two, a collarbone, a half-dozen concussions — but the battering will come while on someone’s payroll, not on a class sheet.

Also, if they are good, and able to get onto the field, after four years, they can get the NFL contract that really matters — the second one, when starting quarterbacks can count on a really big payday.

It’s as simple as that. Come out if you are ready for the pain as much as the money.



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