Why Sam Darnold will be best NFL quarterback to hail from USC – NFL.com

USC has produced more draft picks than any other college and the most first-round draft picks of all time — and yet, of the 13 Trojan quarterbacks who have been drafted since 1980, none have won more than 51.7 percent of their starts, while just four have started more than 29 games.

The highly touted Sam Darnold will be the 14th USC quarterback drafted at the end of the month, joining Cody Kessler, Matt Barkley and Matt Cassel among the USC QBs currently on NFL rosters (Mark Sanchez is a free agent). Likely to be taken off the boards early (if not first overall), Darnold could become the fourth USC signal-caller in the last 15 years — joining Carson Palmer (No. 1 overall to Cincinnati in 2003), Matt Leinart (No. 10 to Arizona in 2006) and Sanchez (No. 5 to New York Jets in 2009) — to be taken in the first round and shoulder high expectations. But Palmer, Leinart and Sanchez all, to some extent, failed to live up to those expectations. So, why should we believe Darnold won’t be just another USC great who struggles in the league?

Let’s lay the groundwork for the three who came before him. USC quarterbacks are often five-star recruits who’ve been on the radar for years — sometimes peaking before they reach the NFL. As a fellow California native coming up at around the same time as Leinart, I’d been hearing since he was 12 years old how physically gifted he was. The same goes for Palmer. (We played junior high baseball together in Fresno, and I remember him being a stud at absolutely everything.) Honestly, these two were built to play in the NFL as high school sophomores.

Palmer, who retired in January, was hampered by injuries throughout his career, but

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