Why LSU star Jayden Daniels would be a good fit as next Patriots QB

Why LSU star Jayden Daniels would be a good fit as next Patriots QB originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Most of the quarterback hype surrounding the 2024 NFL Draft involves USC's Caleb Williams and North Carolina's Drake Maye. And much of it is warranted -- they are considered by experts as the top two QB prospects in next year's class.

But there's another intriguing QB who could rocket up draft boards and enter the conversation pretty soon, and that's LSU star Jayden Daniels.

Daniels enters rivalry week as the betting favorite to win the Heisman Trophy -- awarded annually to college football's most outstanding player. He has completed 72.6 percent of his passes for 3,577 yards with 36 touchdown passes and just four interceptions. Daniels makes a tremendous impact with his legs, too. He has tallied 1,014 yards (8.2 per carry) and 10 more touchdowns on the ground.

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It's no secret the New England Patriots could be a team looking for a quarterback early in the 2024 draft. Mac Jones and Bailey Zappe haven't inspired much confidence this season, to say the least.

Why would Daniels be a good fit as the Patriots' next quarterback? Our insider Phil Perry asked Emory Hunt of the Football Gameplan on a new episode of the Next Pats Podcast.

"His ability to play above the X's and O's, and you need that in this era of the NFL," Hunt said. "Plays are not going to go as you design it and as you draw it up on a whiteboard. You have to be able to make things happen out there in a game of moving parts. It's 11 different pieces on both sides of the ball that can go haywire on any given play. You've got to be able to play above that. And Jayden Daniels, dating back to his time at Arizona State, has always been able to play above the X's and O's, let alone his ability as a passer, let alone his ability as a runner. That's easy to see, but a lot of times people would struggle to find the it factor.

"And for me, it's how you handle pressure, how you handle end-of-game situations, pressure of the moment, pressure of the situation, pressure coming from the opposing defense. To me, all of that is what makes the it factor, and I feel like Jayden Daniels, when you watch the games and you watch the film, you can see the it. He has it."

What's the best NFL player comp for Daniels?

"He's athletically built like Josh Dobbs, but his playstyle is more like Jalen Hurts," Hunt said. "You can watch an LSU game and you wouldn't know if they're up 30 or down 30. Jayden Daniels has the same demeanor the whole game, so you don't know what's going on in the game, but you need someone that's even-keel like that.

"And it may not look pretty for the full 60 minutes, but when you need it to be effective, it happens, When you need him locked down inside the red zone, he does it. When you need him to make a play with his legs, he not only makes that play, he has that potential to really take it to the house.

"And I said this in a tweet back in October, and people thought I was crazy then, comparing his ability to run with the ball just like Lamar Jackson. He has tremendous body control, and I'm not saying he's as explosive as Lamar, but he's definitely fast. But when you watch him run with the ball, he's so under control. He's so smooth, so silky. You go and look at the Florida game, the run he had, not the long 80-yard touchdown run, but the next one, the one he had to weave his way through the defenders and then get to the end zone, didn't get touched.

"And so when you have that element in your back pocket as a quarterback, you're never in a bad play. You're never in a bad situation. Your ability to buy time and create puts a lot of strain on a front seven, but also puts strain on a back four because now they have to really plaster and cover for four to five seconds a little bit longer than they expect to. And you have the arm to get it anywhere you want on the field. So he provides the ultimate challenge to the defense."

The primary concern with Daniels right now might be his build, but it's something that can be improved fairly quickly at the pro level.

"Yes, he is built like an extension cord. I get that. He's going to have to find ways to gain weight. But you could have said that about him as a freshman, thinking that he was going to gain weight. And some people just take a little bit longer to add some weight. But that's the only question you have about his game. But he has made improvements each and every year he's been in college."

Daniels has been projected as a second-round pick for most of the season, but it wouldn't be surprising if he makes a steady climb up the rankings into the first round on many draft boards between now and next April.

Also in this episode:

  • Why isn’t Daniels getting more attention?

  • How high in the draft should Daniels go?