Jayden Daniels Draft Profile
LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels is coming off one of the most exciting seasons in college football, which ended with him hoisting the Heisman trophy. Born and raised in the Inland Empire, Daniels was a major recruit for Arizona State. He became the best player on the field as soon as he stepped into the PAC-12. In his true freshman season, he led the Sun Devils to an eight-win season and had undeniable chemistry with receiver Brandon Aiyuk. After two more seasons with Arizona State (including a shortened COVID year), Daniels chose to enter the transfer portal, finding himself a new home in Baton Rouge, LA. With the Tigers, his game elevated and he played under the brightest of lights in the biggest moments. In his first year with LSU, he scored the game-winning touchdown against Alabama in overtime and led an improbable upset over a seventh-ranked Ole Miss team. If 2022 was his breakout year, then 2023 was the season he emerged as the best player in college football. After experiencing five years of collegiate football, Daniels has only gotten better. He embodies the idea that it is not where you start, but where you finish, and he happened to finish with the Heisman trophy.
When it comes to body type, Daniels has the ideal height for an NFL quarterback but poor weight. This season, he has taken some major hits in the SEC, including one that took him out of the game against Alabama with a concussion. Despite his slender frame, Daniels never missed a start in his five collegiate seasons. Relative to his position, Daniels possesses rare speed and acceleration with very good quickness both inside and outside of the pocket. His ability as a runner is something that his offensive coordinator can build a system around, and opposing defenses will have to game plan to stop. He has had a very good arm since he stepped on Arizona State’s campus, but the improvement of his deep ball has transcended his game from being a “running quarterback” to a quarterback that can make any play on the football field. It has been explosives galore with Daniels behind center, and he’s been responsible for shattering countless records in college football. A lot of times, people mistakenly categorize raw quarterbacks with lots of athletic talent as a high floor, high ceiling player; I disagree. Daniels’ physical traits allow him to have a higher floor than most quarterbacks because he is athletic enough to get himself out of a bad play. A team is destined to fall in love with the idea of what Daniels is capable of, and I anticipate him being a top ten pick because of that.
Narrative-wise, there are a few things I really love about Daniels. He is tough; he doesn’t get discouraged from bad plays and remains stoic after taking big hits. After an ugly departure from Arizona State, Daniels only got better. Whether it was beating Alabama in 2022, upsetting Oregon as a true freshman, or coming back against Missouri this year—the bigger the moment, the better he played. His teammates at LSU have embraced him, he’s shown the ability to completely take over football games, and there is a subtle swagger that he plays with. From a demeanor standpoint, Daniels is a quarterback I would want leading my franchise.
Mechanically speaking, Daniels keeps a good base but his feet can get a little antsy. He is a very good rotational athlete and generates lots of velocity with his shoulder turn. When his feet aren’t set and he is throwing on the run, Daniels is still capable of making improbable throws on all three levels of the field. When playing in the pocket, Daniels has shown glimpses of anticipation and high-level accuracy, but there are still moments of uncertainty when having to be a traditional drop-back passer. It is like he needs to see the route develop before he is willing to let it loose, but once he rips it, the ball is flying out of his hands. The biggest knock I have on his game is his habit of looking down at the line when the pocket is collapsing. The only time I have really seen him freeze up is when a free rusher is coming at him. That is where that bad habit prevents him from seeing routes develop and also the lack of anticipation comes into play. While he does a good job at keeping his eyes downfield and extending plays outside of the pocket, teams are going to try to force him to be one dimensional. When kept clean, Daniels is very efficient as a pocket passer. He does a good job at working through his progressions, finding one-on-one’s, and identifying beaters. There is also a level of magic that he possesses; he is a playmaker, and there is always a possibility of an explosive play when he is at the helm. That possibility is what teams are looking for in their franchise quarterback, and that is why I think Daniels is worth being a top ten pick.
In the NFL, I believe Daniels is going to be a good starting quarterback from day one but has MVP-level potential. There will be obvious concerns regarding his frame and ability to be a pure pocket passer, but I believe what is exciting about him is that he is capable of being so much more than just a pure pocket passer. His playing style reminds me of Jalen Hurts, without the lower-body strength and muscle mass. Whether it is the deep ball, his speed, the tendency to look down at the rush, his even-keeled demeanor, or his late-game heroics, Daniels is very similar to Hurts. There is too much talent to keep him on the bench; I anticipate him playing from day one. Anticipation comes with reps, and he’ll need to adjust to the speed of the NFL and develop chemistry with his receivers. Part of it is also learning how to trust himself and let his inherent abilities take over. Scheme-wise, ideally he lands in a spot that majors in a vertical passing attack similar to the Andy Reid style of offense. It is hard not to get excited watching Daniels play, but it is important his coach allows him to use his superpowers without stunting his growth as a passer.
Natural Arm Talent: 9.33/12 (Very Good)
Accuracy: 6.67/10 (good)
Natural Leadership: 6.67/10 (good)
Decision Making + Eyes + Anticipation: 5.56/10 (above average)
Pocket Presence: 4.44/8 (Above Average)
Athleticism + Mobility: 8/8 (rare)
Deep Ball: 5.33/6 (excellent)
Feet + Base: 4/6 (good)
Throwing Motion: 5.33/6 (excellent)
Toughness + Fearlessness: 4/6 (very good)
Final Rating: Good NFL Quarterback
Pro Comparison: Jalen Hurts without the lower body strength
Draft Projection: Top 10 Pick
Draft Grade: Top 10 Player in the Draft
Scheme Fits: Vertical Passing Game that allows him to use his legs