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Race for No. 1: Early takes on Josh Rosen, Sam Darnold from NFL talent evaluators

UCLA’s Josh Rosen and USC’s Sam Darnold are ready to move on from Los Angeles. They each announced Wednesday that they were leaving their respective schools to enter the NFL draft.

And the race for the No. 1 pick, which the 0-16 Cleveland Browns own, is officially on.

Josh Rosen declared he was leaving UCLA for the NFL draft. (AP)

Yahoo Sports writers Charles Robinson and Pete Thamel spoke with several NFL talent evaluators during the college season about each pro prospect. Here were some of their takeaways:

Rosen’s pros

All seven evaluators shared one common thread with Rosen: His throwing motion and release are basically as elite as it gets for a prospect. They raved about his fluidity and how he spun the ball effortlessly. “He can really spin it” was said repeatedly.

… a few evaluators were very critical of the offensive talent around Rosen, suggesting it cornered and forced him to make things happen.

Rosen’s cons  

The negatives that came up were consistent: He has an underlying arrogance about him that can rub some the wrong way; he has a little bit of a party reputation off the field (though not to the point of serious concern); and his work habits and leadership have room to grow.

There will be a lot of questions about Rosen off the field, as his brash comments have disappeared this season but remain a sticking point in NFL circles. “I don’t know enough about his personality,” said a veteran executive. “Can he be the leader and face of a franchise? It doesn’t appear he handles that well at UCLA.”

From a football perspective, there was concern about his penchant to force bad throws rather than just getting rid of the ball. But a few evaluators were very critical of the offensive talent around Rosen, suggesting it cornered and forced him to make things happen.

Sam Darnold removed any doubt that he’d stay in school for the 2018 season. (AP)

Darnold’s pros

Evaluators said it was clear that he makes a lot of plays based on his natural instincts and ability.

Here’s one executive’s analysis: “He’s been all over the place this year. The talent is there and someone is going to take a shot on him. Someone is going to think they can clean up his mechanics.

Darnold’s cons

Another evaluator believed Darnold had a penchant for bailing on the pocket too often, criticizing his “taking off” at the first opportunity.

… there was some immense concern about his throwing motion, which may take some work over a sustained period. Darnold worked on the motion in the offseason, but one evaluator said he has reverted to his long release and even with work, it may be what feels most natural to him.

[“He’s athletic for a big guy, but I just wish he was a little more polished in the pocket. He’s never balanced, he’s hoppy and a little jittery.” [talent evaluator]