For two and a half months from January to March, Jordan Palmer rented a beach house in San Clemente, Calif. where he tutored two of the top quarterbacks in this year’s NFL draft—USC’s Sam Darnold and Wyoming’s Josh Allen—along with Houston’s Kyle Allen.
When the prospects weren’t working out with elite trainer Ryan Flaherty on the nearby beaches of California, Palmer—the younger brother of recently retired NFL QB Carson Palmer—put Darnold and Allen through hours and hours of film work, going through the basics of installing an NFL offense and dissecting a defense. In essence, he taught them how to watch film like a pro.
So what was the experience like for everyone involved? The MMQB quizzes Palmer on what he’s learned about these future NFLers.
The MMQB: How do Darnold and Allen get along after two and a half months together?
Jordan Palmer: Dude, they’re like best friends. They are super tight, all three of them. I mean, they wanted to make sure that Kyle [Allen] got one of their tickets to the green room. So Kyle is literally going to the draft, and his girlfriend. They’re going with Sam and Josh, because they’re so tight.
The MMQB: What was the atmosphere like at the house?
Palmer: Well, they were freaking grinding. So when they were at the house and [not working], they were laying on the couch, you know? Playing Fortnite and watching movies. These guys quote every single movie that’s ever existed. It’s pretty hilarious. I think they golfed a little bit, got in the water a little bit, ate. Just kinda did what college students do, minus the partying. This is not the time when you sit around and drink beers.
The MMQB: Fortnite—that’s the video game, right?
Palmer: Yeah, it’s the dumbest thing ever. I used to love video games, but this one looks so stupid and everyone’s so addicted to it.
The MMQB: A big issue with Darnold is his turnovers the last few years. How did you work on that with him?
Palmer: I’m not going to strip him in the pocket, but we did some things to make sure he’s always keeping two hands on the ball. ... Basically what I had him do—for two and a half months, no matter what, he always just held the ball in his left hand. And so, his left hand became his dominant hand in terms of just, gripping the ball. His first [instinct] was to grab the ball with both hands, and then I never had to say, ‘keep two hands on the ball’ again.
The MMQB: What about Allen and his accuracy?
Palmer: I’ve seen his tape as much as or more than anybody … I think 56 [percent] was pretty good, given his situation.
The MMQB: What do you mean ‘his situation?’
Palmer: I mean, I don’t want to smash on Wyoming, but—there’s a lot of issues that lead to completions or incompletions. One is the accuracy, what’s the quarterback doing? And the other is, what’s happening on the other end?
It’s hard to put a lot of weight into Josh’s tape. … because he’s not playing with or against a single person who’s playing in the NFL. [It’s comparable to] an eighth grader playing on a sixth-grade team. You can’t evaluate that. His completion percentage number is less relevant to me. I think the guy is really accurate. I watched him throw for three months.
Now, I also know that he doesn’t care about getting hit, so it’s not going to change a lot. The speed of the game, sure. He’s never even thrown to an NFL [receiver]… yet.
The MMQB: It came out recently that Josh scored a 37 on the Wonderlic.
Palmer: I didn’t even know that.
The MMQB: Yeah?
Palmer: What did Sam get?
The MMQB: I think Sam had a 28. He was in the high 20’s.
Palmer: Oh, yeah.
The MMQB: If you’re hearing it for the first time, does a 37 on the Wonderlic help Josh Allen’s case? Does it mean anything?
Palmer: I don’t know. With Josh, it’s about teams trying to figure out whether they’re going to take him one, or if they’re going to take him two, if they’re going to trade to two. If he’s a mid-first-round, I think there’s pieces that help come together. But I think teams are going to fall with other things before they fall in love with [his high score] on the Wonderlic test. I think it’s pretty irrelevant.
The MMQB: Was there a moment when the players were in the beach house when they made a leap physically or made a leap mentally?
Palmer: There was a period when, about three weeks in, when Josh Allen went from respectful and humble and hard working—just a great guy—and switched from that to just one of the funniest dudes I’ve ever been around. … He’s not shy or nervous ever. ... Everyone had been telling him [at Wyoming] that he’d be the top pick in the draft or whatever, but what are you supposed to do with that? He’s 21 years old. I want to see that up against somebody. I think it was just the idea of him living with two other players who are really good, who are going to be starters, and him going, whoa, I can totally do this, I am enough. I think he got so comfortable a couple weeks in.
The MMQB: It seems like all of the mock drafts have either Darnold or Allen going No. 1 over all. What have you heard? What kind of contact have the Browns had with you on those guys?
Palmer: I can’t answer that. [laughs] You know.
The MMQB: Well, I think it’s just the image. Everyone freaked out seeing Jimmy Haslam hanging out with Darnold’s parents at his pro day.
Palmer: Jimmy met with both sets of parents, yeah. That is something they do. You flew all the way there to evaluate, I want to evaluate everything. I want to talk to the parents, I want to talk to the girlfriend, I want to talk to coach, I want to talk to the equipment manager. I think it’s because it was live and on ESPN and NFL Network, it was an easy story.
The MMQB: You’ve said that Allen is the most talented quarterback you’ve ever worked with. It seems you believe he’s worth the No. 1 pick just as much as Darnold?
Palmer: Yeah, the one thing I will tell you is, I honestly don’t know who I would take [No. 1 overall]. It just depends on the situation and the personnel. But even still, I think both of these guys have really high ceilings.
You know, talent is tied to potential and ability, those types of words. And so, when I say that about Josh being the most talented dude I’ve seen—I mean, that’s a fact for me, and it’s an opinion. It doesn’t guarantee anything. In terms of his ceiling and what he’s capable of doing, he can throw the ball further and higher and harder, and he can run faster. He’s got all of these things that allow him to play at another level.
No matter who the rookie is ... everybody, when they leave from college to pro, they have a long way to go. All the No. 1 picks do. I think Deshaun [Watson] still has a long way to go, and he just lit the league on fire last year.
So, it’s not a knock, right? It’s a big jump, going from college to pro. I’ve been around a lot of top picks, from my brother, or I’ve played with them or whatever. Friends with them.
Josh’s talent and ability is very, very unique. But Sam has done it. He’s played with and against NFL guys a lot more, and so there’s just more data there. So that’s why I go, man, this is a hard one. These guys both—the floor is really, really high. The Browns are in a position where I don’t think they can screw this up.