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What NFL teams are looking for at Sam Darnold’s pro day

One of the best pro days ever was Jamarcus Russell’s. One of the worst? Peyton Manning’s.

Yet USC quarterback Sam Darnold’s pro day matters — at least, it does to NFL teams. Sure, pro days are just a sliver of the evaluation process for NFL draft prospects. But they aren’t completely useless, and we’re talking about a potential No. 1 pick here — a potential No. 1 pick with competition. It magnifies things a little more. Yes, scouts and front-office personnel have watched mountains of tape, talked to people who know the prospects they have their eyes on and sometimes even met with the prospects, either at the combine or on in-person visits. And quarterbacks? If a team is eyeing a quarterback in Round 1, it has done its homework.

If there’s a question about Darnold, it’s his delivery, which is more of a windup than the other top quarterbacks’. He has a quick release, but NFL coaches are going to want him to shorten that delivery. A windup, or elongated delivery, could matter for two reasons. One is delivery speed. That seems to be a lesser concern here. Darnold anticipates well and gets the ball out pretty quick. That said, a windup can expose the ball to pass-rushers — think of a ball behind your shoulder, where it can be swatted, as opposed to next to your head — and for a guy who has had turnover issues, that can stick out.

Q: Did things progress quickly during that visit?

AC: No, I mean, it was a long day just meeting everybody and watching film with the coaches and getting to know the program. It was a long day, but it worked out.

Q: How has having Erb’s Palsy impacted you as a player? What sort of effect does it have on where you line up as a defensive lineman?

AC: I mean, I play the right side. That’s where I’ve been playing for most of my career. I mean, it doesn’t really affect me besides in the weight room with doing some stuff, but on the field, I mean, it doesn’t really affect me. I’ve learned to compensate when I have to and I do what I’ve got to do to make the plays.

Q: Is it strange to be a member of the Patriots after being a member of the Falcons in Super Bowl LI?

AC: I mean, not really. I didn’t play in that game, so it’s not really a big thing to me. So, I’m just excited about a new opportunity and to get to continue my career.

Q: Did you know James Ferentz and Matt Tobin well when you played together at Iowa?

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