Study: Sam Darnold's USC among the top quarterback producers in the nation

Kristian Dyer

Twice in recent history, the New York Jets have selected quarterbacks out of USC in the first round of the NFL Draft. The most recent of these picks is a major part of the reason why the Trojans have earned a high ranking as one of the top producers of quarterbacks in college football. 

In a recent ranking to determine which college football program is ‘QBU,’ SportsIllustrated.com analyzed data using several criteria such as first rounds picks and MVP awards. The result was Oklahoma as the top team in the nation in terms of producing quarterbacks. All comparisons and rankings were determined derived from data beginning in 2010. 

And the Jets, having selected a USC quarterback recently in the first round, helped lift the Trojans to come in at tied for fifth. 

In 2018, the Jets invested heavily to move up in the NFL Draft several weeks before the start of the first round, leapfrogging three spots up from the original sixth pick. With their new pick, which they obtained in a trade with the Indianapolis Colts, they ended up taking USC’s Sam Darnold, minting him as their next franchise quarterback. The Jets were only too happy to take Darnold, who was considered the top pick in the NFL Draft just days before the first round.  

In two years, despite an illness setback in early 2019, Darnold has shown progress and all the tools expected of a developing franchise quarterback. That his pedigree comes from a highly acclaimed college program known for producing top college quarterbacks should only help his continued growth.

The Jets have a history of taking USC quarterbacks in recent years. Ironically, it seemed like Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield was set to be the Jets pick in 2018, but the Cleveland Browns took him first overall. 

Mark Sanchez (No. 6 overall in 2009), nicknamed the ‘Sanchise,’ was the franchise’s hope a decade ago. And while Sanchez enjoyed a strong start to his NFL career, including consecutive AFC Championship Games in his first two seasons with the Jets, he never progressed beyond his first couple of seasons in the league and is now retired. Darnold remains the Jets present and future. 

The study noted that had the data been extended to the past 20 years, USC would have come out on top. Sanchez helps that ranking with his first round pick status. 

“That would be thanks to their prolific output during the Pete Carroll years; the Trojans had five quarterbacks—including three first-rounders—drafted between 2003 and '09,” the study notes.  

“Though while Carson Palmer delivered, the careers of Mark Sanchez and Matt Leinart were forgettable (Matt Cassel, a collegiate backup and seventh-round pick, actually made the second-most career starts among USC alums entering the league this century, after Palmer). Sam Darnold is the only current starter from USC, and Matt Barkley and Cody Kessler are the only other active Trojans QBs in the NFL.” 

For the complete rankings, click here: Who Is the New Quarterback U.? 

It is an interesting and worthwhile dive into what college programs have a pedigree for producing NFL caliber quarterbacks. 

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