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2024 NFL Draft Scouting Report: Jayden Daniels

Let's turn the clocks back to Feburary of 2022. After a less-than-stellar season at Arizona State in 2021, Jayden Daniels said he would transfer to LSU with then-new head coach Brian Kelly. That, of course, led to this now infamous video of Daniels' ex-teammates cleaning out his locker room and lamenting his play at quarterback for the Sun Devils.

Present Day: Daniels is coming off a year where he won every possible accolade he could as a Bayou Bengal. I'm talking about the Heisman Trophy, First-Team All-SEC, and All-American, Manning Award, Davey O'Brien Award; you name it, he probably won it.

Entering the draft as a fifth-year senior, Daniels is as dynamic a quarterback prospect that's entered the NFL in a good bit, and he's also received a ton of comps to Lamar Jackson. Given their similar size profiles and ability to create with their legs, that isn't entirely off base, even as cliche as that comp may sound. At the end of the day, though, Daniels is his own man. So, where does the Heisman winner stand out amongst the crowd?

Player Bio

Name: Jayden Daniels

Jersey: No. 5

Position: Quarterback

School: LSU by way of Arizona State

Class: Super Senior

Height: 6'4"

Weight: 210 lbs

Games Watched: vs. USC (2020 w/Arizona State), vs. Alabama (2022), vs. Florida State, Alabama, Florida, and Texas A&M (2023)

Player Breakdown

Arm Talent (13.75/15)

While there is a drop-off from Williams and Maye to Daniels, he has enough arm talent to warrant the draft hype he's been getting. He didn't show off some of the circus-level throws that the other two top guys did, but Daniels can make some good opposite hash throws and put more than enough zip on it to beat coverages or hit some deeper out-breaking stuff. It certainly doesn't hurt that he showed a ton of "Sunday" throws on tape, either.

Accuracy (12.75/15)

While Daniels' completion numbers were very good at LSU, that's not everything that comes into play when you talk about accuracy. I think his deep ball can sometimes be a bit inconsistent, but that's a secondary issue. The most prominent sore spot was on passes over the middle or simply in breaking stuff. On several occasions, Daniels could not hit guys in stride and frequently put balls behind his intended target. If you were to break down these categories deeper, that would be his biggest issue going into his rookie year, excluding his play weight.

Decision Making (14/15)

One of Daniels' best strengths is that he did an excellent job taking care of the football outside of an off-2021 season at Arizona State, where half of his college INTs come from (10 of 20). On film, I saw two of his four picks from this most recent season, neither of which I would put on him (one was tipped at the line, and the other was on his wideout for falling on a hitch route). Ultimately, if he was putting the ball at risk, it was because he trusted his guys, and I don't blame him for having faith in Malik Nabers or Brian Thomas Jr.

Passing is only half of the equation, though. Although not to the level that I had been led to believe, there is some validity to the idea that Daniels is more of a scramble to run vs. scramble to pass guy. Here's an example of that against Florida last year and focus on the bottom of the screen with Malik Nabers.

This is process vs. results in action. In a vacuum, you'll take the monster gain on the scramble here, and rightfully so. However, look at how open Nabers would've been, plus room to work afterward. It's fair to say that rushing lanes like the one Daniels had here won't be as available in bunches as they were in college, and while this showed up less than anticipated, this is something that he needs to improve on.

Progressions (9/10)

Of all the QB film I've seen over the last few months, I think I got to see Daniels work multiple progressions more than anyone outside of probably Drake Maye. From what I saw, he was efficient at hitting second and third options when he had to go to them but occasionally passed up some open guys or got stuck on a read. Still, he was undoubtedly better than I had hoped.

Pocket Awareness (8.25/10)

The ability to operate from the pocket was a concern that I had read in droves for a while now, but having watched games across three seasons, he's come a long way from where he started. In that 2020 USC game, he bailed out of clean pockets with regularity and didn't seem to have that sixth sense for pressure. Fast forward three years, and while still not perfect by any stretch, there's enough there to coach him across the finish line as a pro, hopefully. One thing that impressed me with Daniels is that he's willing to take hits if a throw is there to make. That could certainly get him into some trouble, but it'll be expected of him at the next level.

Anticipation/Touch (8/10)

This is another area where I'd say Daniels got better but still has a decent amount of room to improve. Here's one example in the final game he played at LSU.

It's only the endzone view here, but this is just a Cover-2 man look for Texas A&M. Realistically, he has two good options: the crosser over the middle or the inside seam run by Brian Thomas. It doesn't look like he was expecting that left-side safety to shade back, but this is a ball that Daniels needs to let rip, giving only Thomas a shot to make a play over the top.

Kind of like with accuracy, he also showed he could put passes in spots like this down the seam, it just wasn't consistent.

Out of Structure (9.25/10)

We touched on the scramble to throw vs. run a bit earlier, but Daniels is so dynamic as a runner that it doesn't even matter sometimes when things break down. I'd wish that he was more willing to throw out of the structure, but in the instances that he did, he looked good enough. Ultimately, though, his legs mostly hold up this score.

Mobility (10/10)

While I worry about how his weight will factor into his running game at the next level, what Daniels is capable of as a runner is downright absurd. It feels better to see for yourself than just me telling you, so here are some highlights.

Mechanics (4.5/5)

While mechanically solid from an all-around standpoint, I'd like to see Daniels plant his feet more throwing the ball. He doesn't typically fade into throws, which is good, but there were occasions when Daniels' feet weren't set, and he sailed passes over his intended targets. Nothing that isn't fixable, though, and the throwing motion is excellent, which is a nice plus.

Player Summary

I completely understand why those who aren't as high on Daniels are in that boat. He will be 24 years old weeks before the end of his rookie year, and he only has one year of elite production, and as a fifth-year senior, no less. I also think it's hard to discredit his level of playmaking ability, on top of the fact he's shown increased confidence as a player and shown enough improvement as a passer to warrant a high selection in this year's draft.

Now, under the likely assumption that Caleb Williams to Chicago is a stone-cold lock, Either Washington with Kliff Kingsbury or New England with Alex Van Pelt are both good landing spots for him, in my estimation, with the former probably being the better of the two by a slight bit.

In any case, I want to see Daniels pack on an additional 5-10 pounds. This surprised me, but Lamar Jackson's playing weight right now is 215, and he was only a pound heavier in his final year at Louisville than Daniels is right now. But to get back on track, Daniels has all the tools to be successful at the next level, and based on some of the character and leadership qualities he's been said to have, he will be an excellent fit for someone's locker room. (There are some really good quotes in that SI piece).

Rookie Projections: High Upside Starter

Third-Year Projections: Pro Bowl Caliber Quarterback

Final Grade (89.5/100): Top 10 Talent

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