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Sam Darnold shines during rainy Pro Day in Los Angeles

Posted Mar 21, 2018

Darnold is among several QBs the Browns could take No. 1

When it rains, it pours.

But an atypically cloudy, stormy day in Los Angeles didn’t faze USC quarterback Sam Darnold, who threw at his on-campus Pro Day on Wednesday morning in front of teams, including the Browns, from all across the NFL.

"It's just a job interview to be honest with you,'' Darnold told NFL Network afterwards. "I thought I showed them the best version of myself. I've been training really hard for this day. I thought I did really well, just how I would train for any other game.”

Darnold, who's viewed by many as the best quarterback in this year’s draft class, looked sharp during the session despite pouring rain and more than a few dropped passes downfield. "I knew I was going to come out here and do well," he said. "I think having played games in the rain before, I knew I wasn't going to have a problem with it. I thought I made the most of it.”

Darnold is among several quarterbacks the Browns, owners of the first and fourth overall picks, could select as they continue a search to find a long-term answer at the position. In an ongoing effort to evaluate all of the top quarterbacks in this year’s class, Cleveland sent a large contingent to Los Angeles that included general manager John Dorsey, coach Hue Jackson and owner Jimmy Haslam.

Darnold said he met with the Browns on Tuesday and described it as a positive experience. “That whole staff is awesome,” he said. “I'm trying to impress them but at the same time be myself so there's a fine line between that and I’m just trying to find that and do my best.”

At the league’s annual scouting combine earlier this month, Darnold — who didn’t throw in Indianapolis — embraced the idea of coming to Cleveland following the franchise’s first winless season. “If Cleveland takes me No. 1, that would be a great opportunity, that goes for any team,” he said. “Turning a franchise around is hard, but I'm always up for a challenge."

Darnold, if drafted by the Browns, would be the first quarterback taken by the franchise first overall since 1999. As the Browns weigh their options, he believes he put his best foot forward — rain or shine. He'd also join a quarterbacks room that recently added veteran Tyrod Taylor, whom the Browns say will start in 2018.

Darnold, 20, has earned high marks for his arm talent, mobility and leadership qualities. NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah told Cleveland Browns Daily he gave Darnold “the same grade that I gave Carson Wentz, so he would be tied at the top for me. He is as good as any of the quarterbacks in the last three drafts.”

Fellow NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock also has Darnold as his top signal caller. “I think he's got plus size, plus arm strength, outstanding athlete, and I really like the way he extends plays inside and outside of the pocket. If he scrambles or moves, it's with the intent of getting the ball down the field. His eyes are always up,” Mayock said last month. “Now, the flip side to Darnold are the turnovers, and not just interceptions, but fumbles. He's got a history of fumbling going back to high school. But I think fumbling can be controlled in the pocket. That's one of the few things you can learn in the pocket as an NFL quarterback is how to keep both hands on the football and control some of the fumbling. He is a gunslinger, and he will put the ball up for grabs at times. But he can play in all 32 cities. He can play indoors, he can play outdoors.”

Darnold felt confident he showed off those types of skills Wednesday in the rain.

“I think just going out and proving exactly what I proved on tape, just that I can throw on the run, throw with accuracy,” he said.

“I think I did a really good job of being aware of keeping two hands on the ball too when I was in the pocket, I know some guys were looking at that. Just being aware of those little things. I thought I came out here and ripped it.”

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