The Jets have made their long-anticipated selection near the top of the 2018 NFL Draft tonight, selecting USC quarterback Sam Darnold with their third overall pick.
Darnold dropped to the Jets when the Browns selected Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield with the first pick and the Giants opted to go with Penn State RB Saquon Barkley with their second pick.
"I couldn't be happier," Darnold told NFL Network minutes after the Jets' selection was announced. "I'm just happy to be in the NFL." Asked what he can provide the Green & White and their fans, he said, "A lot of wins. That's what I think I can bring to a franchise. I'm ready to go to work."
Darnold joins the list of first-round QBs in Green & White history that includes Joe Namath in 1965, Richard Todd in 1976, Ken O'Brien in 1983, Chad Pennington in 2000 and Mark Sanchez, another Southern Cal product, in 2009.
He also joins the Jets' current quarterbacks room that includes Josh McCown, Teddy Bridgewater, Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg.
"We felt very good at 3," said general manager Mike Maccagnan about the St. Patrick's Day trade with Indianapolis to move up three rungs from No. 6. "We paid a good price to move to 3, but we felt very good about it and it gave us one of the best players in the draft."
Darnold, Maccagnan said, "is very young, but we feel he has a very, very bright future." The GM declined to tip his hand on where Darnold was on the Jets' value board, but he did say that when they went on the clock, "There's always a bit of of a pause, but we felt very good about this player with this pick."
Head coach Todd Bowles, asked how soon he might be ready to play in the NFL, said, "Once we get him in here, there's no timetable. We'll see how fast he learns and grasps everything. We're not going to throw him in there, but at the same time we're not going to hold him back, either."
Darnold (6'3", 221), who will turn 21 in June, put up strong passing numbers in two seasons at the Trojans' helm. Last season as a redshirt sophomore, he completed 63.2% of his passes (303-of-480) for 4,143 yards — most in the Pac-12 — 26 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He was named game MVP of the Pac-12 Conference Championship win over Stanford that earned USC a berth in the Cotton Bowl, and was an all-conference first-teamer.
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In his two USC seasons, he had 64.9% accuracy (549-of-846) for 7,229 yards, 57 TDs and 22 INTs. He also averaged 4.0 yards/carry in 2016 (an average that includes sacks) and ran for five touchdowns last season.
The Jets acquired the third pick of the draft on March 17 when they sent their sixth overall pick plus two second-round selections this year and one Round 2 pick next year to the Indianapolis Colts to move up.
This is the 15th time the Jets have taken a Southern California player since the AFL/NFL common draft began in 1967. The last Trojan to be selected was DL Leonard Williams with the sixth overall pick in 2015. The only other USC quarterback taken by the Jets was Mark Sanchez in 2009, when the Green & White traded up with Cleveland for the fifth overall selection that year.