FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - The Browns ended up passing on Sam Darnold, but coach Hue Jackson knew he could make a quick impact in the NFL.
During pre-draft meetings and workouts with Darnold, Jackson saw the maturity and abilities that have the Jets believing they found their franchise quarterback.
“I noticed the ability to throw the football, the ability to intake a lot of football information,” Jackson said Tuesday. “I think also he was going to be a young man who would compete at the highest level very quickly. He was part of our discussions. We decided to go in a different way. We’re very happy with the young player we have, and I’m sure the Jets are very happy with the player they have.”
The Browns opted to take Baker Mayfield with the No. 1 pick. Mayfield is backing up Tyrod Taylor. Jackson wouldn’t address why Mayfield got the nod over Darnold, who many predicted would go first overall.
“I don’t think at this point that really matters,” Jackson said. “More so than anything I think what Sam is doing is he’s proving he can play in this league. He’s a starter right now for the New York Jets. We have a very talented young player that we feel really good about and at some point he’ll get the opportunity to showcase his talent and ability.”
Jackson and the Browns will get a chance to see what could have been Thursday night when the Jets play in Cleveland. They’re trying to avoid being the team that ends the Browns’ winless streak. It’s up to 19 games after Cleveland opened this season with a tie against the Steelers and a loss to the Saints.
Darnold has looked like a rookie at times, but he’s also shown the poise and awareness of someone much older. He’s coming off a two-interception game against the Dolphins, and his three picks are tied for the third-most in the NFL with top quarterbacks Ben Roethlisberger, Russell Wilson and Andrew Luck. But Darnold also has completed 66.1 percent of his passes (41-for-62). It would be higher if not for some drops by receivers.
“I think he’s doing well,” Jackson said. “Obviously, they trust him. He’s throwing the ball quite a bit. He’s made some plays with his arms and his legs. He looks like he has command of the system. He’s done some good things.”
Jackson is not surprised the Jets have entrusted Darnold with the team so soon.
“He seems like that kind of young man,” he said. “He wants it all on him. He’s going to do everything he can to help the football team win. So I’m not surprised by anything they’re doing with him.”