COLUMBIA, MISSOURI - OCTOBER 7:  LSU Tigers trainers attend to Jayden Daniels #5 of the LSU Tigers after an injury during the game against the Missouri Tigers at Faurot Field/Memorial Stadium on October 7, 2023 in Columbia, Missouri. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
COLUMBIA, MISSOURI - OCTOBER 7: LSU Tigers trainers attend to Jayden Daniels #5 of the LSU Tigers after an injury during the game against the Missouri Tigers at Faurot Field/Memorial Stadium on October 7, 2023 in Columbia, Missouri. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

NFL High-Risk Pick: Heisman Trophy Winner QB Jayden Daniels

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BATON ROUGE, LOUISIANA – NOVEMBER 11: Jayden Daniels #5 of the LSU Tigers reacts after a game against the Florida Gators during a game at Tiger Stadium on November 11, 2023 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

Congratulations to LSU quarterback (QB) Jayden Daniels who had an electric college football season and deserved to win the 2023 Heisman Trophy.

I’ve seen firsthand how he’s developed after I’ve studied 21 of his games over the past three seasons going back to ASU before he transferred to LSU.

However, projecting talent to the NFL is a different ball game. NFL defenses are faster, more complex and they hit harder.

While Daniels shows he can run out of bounds or slide when he’s on the move, he has this innate desire to get physical with defenders.

These are high-risk situations, which puts Daniels at high-risk for injury in the NFL.

He runs the ball at times like he thinks he is Titans’ running back Derrick Henry (but he’s not built like him). Instead, he’s built like a thin athletic runner. He looks more like an Olympic sprinter than an NFL QB. I can’t recall in 40+ years of watching the game seeing such a frail-looking QB in the NFL.

Daniels isn’t going to hold up in the NFL taking wicked shots like kept subjecting himself to at LSU.

The NFL is tough on running QBs as the following have missed time; Anthony Richardson (Colts), Lamar Jackson (Ravens), Justin Fields (Bears), and they are all more well-built.

Double-edged sword

No question, Daniels is a dynamic runner. He’s the best running QB in this draft class.

In 2023, he rushed 135 times for 1,134 yards and 10 touchdowns (No. 22 ranked rusher in college football).

Daniels can take off like a shot and he’s elusive.

Go deep

Daniels’ second-best trait is his deep ball accuracy.

He’s one of the better deep-ball throwers in this draft class. On the season, I charted 19/29 completions deep (65.5%).

Inconsistent rhythm and tempo

This is where the breakdowns begin.

This is the most important attribute a QB brings to an offense. QBs are like the drummer in a band.

Daniels’ timing in the pocket was erratic. The clock in his head doesn’t work right.

Becomes uncomfortable in the pocket

Daniels is as good as any QB when he’s relaxed in the pocket (Grambling, Army, and Georgia Southern). He tends to become jumpy in the pocket about half the time. He plays scared. Occasionally looks downright spooked and prematurely takes off running or hurries his throws to no avail. I was struck by how average Daniels’ ball placement looked at the short-to-intermediate route level.

I am very concerned about a QB who only looks comfortable in the pocket about half the time.

Mental lapses

Daniels has these deer in headlights moments on film.

Despite his athleticism and running ability, he’ll end up holding the ball too long at times (65 sacks the past two seasons).

This is also how he manipulated college defenses by holding the ball too long, which is what cleared things out and provided large open areas for him to exploit.

There are also plays when Daniels loses situational awareness on third downs (throws it short of the sticks). He will throw an occasional, “What were you thinking pass.”

#5 Jayden Daniels 6-foot-4, 210 pounds

Daniel Kelly’s 2024 NFL Draft Grade: Third-Round (I would select him)

Projected by 24.0% of the NFL Draft Community to be a first-round pick as of December 11, 2023 (nflmockdraftdatabase.com)

Is Arizona State quarterback Jayden Daniels, dramatically better than Trey Lance? (4 games evaluated in 2021)

What Does Game Film Reveal About Jayden Daniels (5 games evaluated in 2022)

Game film reviewed (2023): FSU, Grambling, Mississippi State, Arkansas, Ole Miss, Missouri, Auburn, Army, Alabama, Florida, Georgia State, and Texas A&M (click to view games watched to form this evaluation)

2024 NFL Draft Scouting Report

A better athlete than a QB. A fast runner with a strong running instinct. Tough as nails. Inconsistent on the finer points of the position. Doesn’t respond well to pressure in his face. NFL defensive coordinators need to blitz hard to win. Inconsistent setting his feet when throwing. Inconsistent progressions. Tends to lock in with targets. Raw arm strength, but can miss seeing open receivers and runs instead. Aggressively drives the ball downfield. Propensity to make big plays.

Final words

Great college QB who has the skill set of an ideal NFL backup.

Daniel Kelly is a former NFL Scout with the New York Jets. He was hired on the regime which featured Bill Parcells, Bill Belichick, Scott Pioli, Mike Tannenbaum, and Dick Haley. He is currently the Editor-in-Chief for First Round Mock, contributes at Yardbarker, and has written for Sports Illustrated Lions, Jets, and 49ers, as well as a featured guest on ESPN Radio and Fox Sports Radio. For more information about him visit his website at whateverittakesbook.com. He can be followed on Twitter @firstroundmock.

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