NCAA Football: Florida at Louisiana State
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Born about 90 minutes northeast of SoFi Stadium in San Bernadino, California, Jayden Daniels took to football quickly. He had to -- his father played cornerback at Cajon High School and tried rearing his young child as a fellow corner thanks to his speed and lanky size. But by the time Daniels was 10 years old, he wanted to be like Michael Vick and other quarterbacks that ran. Paired with family friend and ex-AFL quarterback Ryan Porter, Daniels started training, and thriving, at quarterback. After impressing through youth leagues, Daniels became Cajon's starting varsity quarterback as a freshman when he was 14 years old -- even though he was 5-10 and 137 pounds.

Daniels set numerous CIF Southern Section records in high school, most notably his 14,007 career passing yards as a four-year starter who overcame hand and thumb injuries in his first two years. He led Cajon to back-to-back conference championship games as a junior and a senior but lost both. While in high school he worked out and became friends with two other high-profile California high-school prospects: C.J. Stroud and Bryce Young. And just as they went off to their college of choice, Daniels (a four-star recruit by 247Sports) chose Arizona State after being recruited by Antonio Pierce despite scholarship offers from Alabama, Florida, Georgia and both UCLA and USC.

In Tempe, Daniels not only became fast friends with the team's top receiver, Brandon Aiyuk, but he also was quickly installed as their starting QB as a true freshman by then-coach Herm Edwards because of his lack of turnovers and decisive play. Daniels was the Sun Devils' starter for three seasons and never had a losing record even though the school went through two offensive coordinators and Daniels dealt with personal turmoil when both of his grandparents passed away from complications from Covid-19. But after the 2021 season the school was under investigation due to multiple recruiting violations and Daniels took the opportunity to "reach into that untapped potential" and transfer to LSU, resulting in a very public video of his teammates clearing out his locker for him.

But LSU was exactly what Daniels needed to ascend to the upper echelon of college football. With coach Brian Kelly, Daniels improved on his numbers from Arizona State and refined his game (while putting on 15 pounds), overcoming some nagging injuries in 2022 to becoming one of the school's all-time greatest passers in 2023 and earning the Heisman Trophy for the best player in the nation (along with nine other awards including SEC Offensive Player of the Year and the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award).

Age as of Week 1: 23 | Height: 6-foot-3 | Weight: 210 | 40-time: n/a

Comparable body-type to: Robbie Chosen

We're breaking down everything you need to know about Daniels from a Fantasy manager perspective, including best fits, Dynasty outlook, measurables, scouting report, key stats and an NFL comparison.

Dynasty outlook

Daniels is a dual-threat quarterback with a quality arm and excellent speed. That alone matches the profile of other high-caliber prospects with massive Fantasy potential. It helps that Daniels will enter the NFL with a refined technique both in his footwork and in his throwing motion and has plenty of experience (55 college games played). But if he's to be critiqued, it's easy to start with his slender frame that seems too brittle for the pro game, and his sensational 2023 season coinciding with throwing to a pair of first-round talents in Malik Nabers and Brian Thomas Jr. Granted, if he winds up with a team that boasts a great receiving corps, a good offensive line and a coaching staff that doesn't figure to change much in the near-term, Daniels could be the top quarterback off the board in every rookie draft. If he ends up in a more imperfect situation, then Caleb Williams and potentially Drake Maye could pass him by at the position. Ultimately expect Daniels to be a long-term starter in the NFL and thus a top-4 pick in every Superflex/two-QB rookie-only draft and a top-8 pick in typical one-QB rookie formats.

Best realistic Fantasy fits

Bears

The Bears have a new play caller but have gotten used to having a dual-threat quarterback over the past three seasons, so something they've already been doing schematically would stay the same if Daniels arrived there. Offensive coordinator Shane Waldron has wide-ranging experience with plenty of unique quarterbacks but would absolutely value Daniels' incredible accuracy and potentially weave in the best parts of Daniels' spread-scheme LSU playbook into a West Coast approach that's been taught by the likes of Sean McVay and Kyle Shanahan. And D.J. Moore and Keenan Allen are exactly the type of receivers who could solidify Daniels' chances of succeeding sooner than later. Hopefully, Waldron would be around for several years.

Commanders

Washington's receiving corps isn't bad and Kliff Kingsbury's offense figures to be a good systematic fit for Daniels, who is very much like a taller Kyler Murray. Elements of the offense Daniels was in at LSU can be adapted to Kingsbury's Air Raid scheme, especially the downfield throws. Though we're practically obligated to mention that Kingsbury's offenses in Arizona were never top-10 in points per game and were top-10 in total yards per game in two seasons because of their rushing efficiency, Daniels may offer a chance at a breakthrough, particularly in an offense that should put the ball in the quarterback's hands a lot.

Next-best Fantasy fits: Minnesota, Denver, Las Vegas, New England

Scouting report

Strengths

  • Has desired height teams look for from their quarterbacks.
  • Had outstanding and consistent rhythmic footwork last season and has worked hard on mastering this trait. His QB trainer once said he had "DB feet," which may have come from the training his father, a former cornerback, gave him when he was very young. Only occasionally might the heel on Daniels' plant foot be off the ground as he begins his throwing motion.
  • Had a quick, effortless release and a quality throwing motion without any awkward inconsistencies.
  • Typically made good pre-snap reads of opposing defensive coverage. Many, many plays appeared to be either one-read and run requests or Daniels simply taking his first read in a progression. There is enough evidence of Daniels getting to his second read and then making a decision on whether to throw or run, so his ability to decipher defensive coverage and go through progressions -- at least on an intermediate level -- shouldn't be questioned. This means there's potential for him to master these things as he develops in the pros. Coaching will be crucial here.
  • Daniels had been improving his accuracy since his Covid-shortened 2020, but it reached a jaw-dropping level in 2023: a 72.2% completion rate. His elite footwork probably played a role but he also had good accuracy when he was on the move. Some throws were perfectly placed making for excellent ball placement. More on this in the advanced stats (bring popcorn!).
  • Did a good job adjusting his velocity based on the situation. He knew to fire a rifle shot with the quickness or layer in an intermediate throw over linebackers' heads.
  • Arm strength was good to very good and had the gunpowder to threaten defenses vertically. Eleven attempted passes traveled at least 40 Air Yards in 2023 (he completed eight!). Daniels was also the master of the fade-route throw both in short-range and long-range and especially targeted slot receivers as part of a route combination the Tigers ran a lot. There's evidence that Daniels made every kind of throw you could ask for.
  • Not as pressure-ignorant as other top-level prospects over the past few years (Joe Burrow, C.J. Stroud) but there were examples of Daniels staying poised in the pocket and making an accurate throw even with the pass rush about to wallop him. It wasn't often, but when it happened it was beautiful.  
  • Naturally, when there wasn't much/any pressure on Daniels he would frequently crush his opponents with bombastic throws.
  • Speed was good to very good. Wouldn't be a surprise to see him run a 40-yard dash in around 4.5 seconds (he was recorded at 4.68 while in high school).
  • Rarely did the first defender tackle Daniels on his runs -- there were countless plays where it was the second man, or multiple men, who wrapped up the shifty speedster. Daniels had very good balance.
  • Dynamic as a runner. Used excellent vision to recognize green grass around him and dart into space for huge gains. He regularly took good rush angles to escape would-be tacklers.
  • Did a great job instantly protecting the ball as he ran, something not everyone in his draft class has done.
  • Also knew when and how to get down and protect himself at the end of his runs, saving himself from taking big hits. This kind of self-preservation could extend the shelf life of his rushing capacity.
  • Seemed to primarily run plays out of spread formations and appeared to be capable of running components of Air Raid, RPO and West Coast offenses.
  • Came off as a soft-spoken cool customer in interviews. Reportedly an introvert who likes hanging out at home and playing video games. Very close with his parents and was impacted by the sudden loss of his grandparents during Covid-19. Also has a close-knit friend group from California; wrote BTTW on his wrist before his college games, an acronym for "Blood's Thicker Than Water."

Concerns

  • Daniels is slender with not much room left on his frame for added muscle (plus it could slow him down). On top of being lean, he runs with Derrick Henry's confidence. While the fearlessness made him fun to evaluate, it obviously could lead to significant injury. To that end, he had three reported injuries in 2023: sore ribs suffered in-game at Mizzou (he didn't leave), a concussion late against Alabama (he didn't miss the next game) and a sprained ankle against Texas A&M (he didn't miss the next game). In 2022 he limped off the field in pain at Auburn with a knee injury (he didn't miss the next game). He did break his wrist in the last game of his freshman season in high school and played with a broken thumb during his sophomore year of high school. None of these are major injuries that changed how he played, but it's mildly concerning (but not surprising) that he got roughed up when he played. A team will have to be aware of this risk, and it's probably his biggest risk.
  • When pressured, Daniels' default move was to take off and run. He did this often and wasn't opposed to getting on the move at the first hint of a pass rush closing in. This was the case not only at LSU but also at Arizona State. To be fair, Daniels typically did keep his eyes downfield when a play broke down (note the instant recognition in the strengths section above), but it didn't mean he intended to throw every time he could and did pass up open targets on multiple occasions most weeks. To get the best out of him, a team must embrace his rushing prowess and be OK with him leaving pockets earlier than they'd like. 
  • Threw a fair share of anticipatory throws that West Coast play callers will love (especially dig routes), but he didn't do it enough. Daniels was more of a see-it "spot" thrower, which isn't a bad thing at all -- especially with his accuracy -- but you wish you'd seen more of him throwing to spaces.       
  • Daniels made a bunch of one-read and two-read throws, but it wasn't often he made full-field reads. Interestingly enough, Daniels did not have a high off-target rate nor interception rate, so either the offense he played in was wildly efficient, the coverages he faced were predictable, he was able to get by with a solid understanding of coverages, he wasn't asked to process defenses in-depth and simply trusted his coaches ... or a combination of the four. This is NOT a suggestion that he can't read coverages or is a system quarterback -- it's already mentioned as a strength how he had an understanding of how and where to go with the ball. But if there is an inefficiency here, a team will get to the bottom of it and must work with him on how to improve his ability to scan and understand defensive coverages. 
  • It's also very obvious that Daniels' best collegiate season came with a powerhouse receiver combo in Nabers and Thomas. When Daniels was a true freshman in 2019 at Arizona State he connected with Brandon Aiyuk for 66 catches, 1,198 yards and eight touchdowns but failed to dominate with another receiver while there. In 2022 he and Nabers were a solid duo (72-1017-3 for Nabers) but that was it. Daniels had productive seasons in 2019 and 2022, but nothing close to what he did in his age-23 season with great receivers for the second consecutive year. Though the film showed a quarterback who improved as he got older, a team will need to be comfortable with Daniels' ability to make great throws to anybody and not necessarily be reliant on one or two big-time targets. And for the record, some of Nabers and Thomas' best plays were on dimes from Daniels.

Stats breakdown


GCmp%PaYdsYds/AttPaTDPaINTRuAttRuYdsRuAvgRuTD
20231272.2%381211.740413511348.410
2023 v Top-25466.9%123810.5102564568.13
Career5566.3%127498.9892061733075.434

Advanced stats to know

  • Over five seasons Daniels threw 14% of his targets to running backs, 70.9% to wide receivers and 10.4% to tight ends. Never once did the tight ends collect more than 13.6% of the targets (Arizona State 2021), and only once did Daniels' running backs corral more than 14.8% of his targets (Rachaad White in 2021 helped push the rate close to 20%).
  • Was 10-6 in one-score games across five seasons. One of the losses (vs. FSU, 2022) was the result of a blocked extra point after Daniels threw a touchdown with no time left; another (at Oregon State, 2019) was due to a failed two-point conversion after a touchdown. Of the 10 wins, four were specifically won on the Tigers' final drive led by Daniels. Of his 37 wins as his team's primary QB, 27 were by more than one score.
  • Among the "big five" prospects in this year's draft (Daniels, Caleb Williams, Drake Maye, J.J. McCarthy and Michael Penix), Daniels was tops in yards per attempt (11.7 was best in the FBS), TD rate (12.2% was best in the FBS), and ADOT (10.2). He was tied for second-best in off-target rate (10.1%), second in completion rate (72.2%, 0.1% behind McCarthy) and second-best in INT rate (1.22%), and second-to-last in rate of passes with 20-plus Air Yards (16.8%). 
  • Daniels was helped by being pressured on just 25.7% of his dropbacks last year, a top-20 rate in the FBS and tops among the "big five". When he was pressured (107 dropbacks), he completed 50% of his throws with an 18% off-target rate for 11.1 yards per attempt (best in the FBS) on an 11.5 ADOT with a 10% TD rate (third-best in FBS).
  • Got that popcorn ready? Good. On passes of 15-plus Air Yards, he was tops not only among the "big five" but in the entire FBS in completion rate (63.3%) and TD rate (31.1%) with a FBS-best 13.3% off-target rate with zero interceptions. This. Was. Awesome.
  • On 11 passes of 40-plus Air Yards, Daniels completed eight for 375 yards and six touchdowns. No one else in the "big five" came particularly close.
  • On quick throws (2.5 seconds or less), Daniels completed 73.6% of his throws for 8.7 yards per attempt, a 6.9 ADOT, a 10.7% TD rate, and a 1.5% INT rate. Everything but the completion rate and INT rate were excellent among the "big five." On throws that weren't out quick (2.51 seconds or more), Daniels completed 69.5% of his throws for 16.0 yards per attempt, a 15.0 ADOT, a 14.5% TD rate, and a 0.8% INT rate. This dominated the "big five." He was pressured on 38.5% of those long-timed throws, which isn't that much given the circumstances.
  • In the red zone, Daniels completed 63% of his throws with a 37% TD rate; 19.6% of his throws were deemed off-target, second-highest among the "big five". Daniels was not intercepted one time in the red zone in 2023, was picked off once in 2022 and twice in 2021. He attempted 157 red-zone throws.
  • Had just 121 yards on 22 attempts on easy throws -- quick outs, WR screens, backfield outs and shovel passes (both were the lowest among the "big five" and should be construed as a sign that Daniels didn't pad his stats with easy passes).
  • 15 snaps from under center in 2023 with ONE pass attempt, both the fewest among the "big five."
  • Excluding sacks, Daniels had 130 carries for 1,192 yards (9.2 yards per carry) and 10 touchdowns on the ground. Had an avoided tackle rate of 34.3% in 2023 and an explosive rush rate of 25.2%, both top-two in the FBS.
  • Scored on 20 of 62 career rush attempts inside the 10, 15 of 31 rush attempts inside the 5, and 9 of 16 rush attempts at the one-yard line.

NFL Comparison

It's hard to pin down one person to compare to Daniels. Lamar Jackson and Robert Griffin III were faster. Josh Allen and Michael Vick, as prospects, weren't as accurate. Kyler Murray and Bryce Young were shorter. C.J. Stroud and Donovan McNabb were slower. Jalen Hurts and Anthony Richardson were thicker. Almost none of these guys had the clean footwork Daniels has. You get the picture. I initially had Justin Fields as his comp, but even that's not fair. If you remember Randall Cunningham, you remember a mobile playmaker with a good arm. I think Daniels plays like Cunningham with better accuracy and probably a less powerful arm.