Jayden Daniels Scouting Report

  • Underdog ADP: 130.8 overall (QB18), rookie QB2

Daniels was a four-star recruit and the No. 1 rated dual-threat QB coming out of San Bernardino, California back in the 2019 recruiting cycle. He originally landed at Arizona State for three seasons until Daniels transferred to LSU to “showcase his talent on a national stage.”

Well, mission accomplished. The reigning Heisman Trophy winner racked up ridiculous numbers as both a passer (3,812 yards and 40 TDs) and rusher (135-1,134-10) during his magical 2023 campaign. Sadly, college football’s No. 1 ranked scoring offense (45.5 points per game) couldn’t make up for the 82nd-ranked scoring defense (28) often enough for the Tigers to find more wins with Daniels under center.

Despite that, Daniels solidified himself as one of the country’s most efficient pure passers during his two seasons down by the bayou. Here's how he ranked among 89 QBs with 300-plus dropbacks from 2022 to 2023:

  • Pro Football Focus (PFF) pass grade: 90.5 (tied for No. 7)
  • Passer rating: 121.1 (No. 4)
  • Yards per attempt: 9.3 (tied for No. 5)
  • Adjusted completion rate: 78.3% (No. 6)

And then there's his absurd rushing upside. Overall, Daniels averaged 4.4 additional fantasy points per game from pure rushing production over any of the other top-six QBs in this draft class over the last two years. It’s not quite on par with Lamar Jackson’s absurd production on the ground back at Louisville, but you can see why many are quick to lean on that comp.

This tantalizing athletic ability has Daniels sitting pretty as Matthew Freedman’s No. 2 overall pick in his latest mock draft. Let’s dig into why many agree that the 23-year-old talent is worthy of this lofty selection as well as some reasons others are a bit more skeptical about Daniels's game translating to the NFL.

Note: I watched the all-22 copies of the 2022 Georgia, 2023 Florida State, 2023 Ole Miss, 2023 Auburn, 2023 Alabama, and 2023 Florida games specifically in preparation for this article.

Jayden Daniels Pros and Cons


Absolutely lethal on the ground

When I say lethal, I mean lethal. The man posted 11-163-1, 12-234-2, 10-96-2, and 11-120-0 rushing lines during his final four college games, regularly proving capable of making defenders miss in the open field while absolutely erasing pursuit angles from second-level defenders on his way to racking up chunk gains.

Daniels’s rate of 0.31 missed tackles forced per rush attempt tops what guys like Lamar Jackson (0.25), Justin Fields (0.24), Jalen Hurts (0.22), and Kyler Murray (0.18) achieved during their collegiate careers.

On top of that, his 28.5% explosive run play rate is within shouting distance of what Jackson (30.5%), Murray (30.6%) and Malik Willis (31.9%) managed in college.

The fact that Daniels achieved this against the best competition that college football had to offer also matters. It’s not an exaggeration to suggest that Daniels could be immediately one of the most productive runners at QB the second he steps onto an NFL field.

Jayden Daniels

Nov 25, 2023; Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA; LSU Tigers quarterback Jayden Daniels (5) scrambles out the pocket against Texas A&M Aggies defensive lineman Malick Sylla (92) during the first half at Tiger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

That being said, there are a couple of potential red flags in his profile as a prospect.

  1. Daniels seems to take at least one comically big hit per game. He can slide, but as Yahoo’s Nate Tice points out, there’s some Johnny Knoxville to his game.
  2. He has a skinny frame. Daniels was listed at 210 lbs. at LSU but didn’t weigh in at the NFL Combine, so we aren’t looking at Cam Newton or Josh Allen here.

I’m not quite ready to call Daniels the next Lamar just yet, but at a minimum, his straight-line speed and tackle-evasion skills should immediately translate into borderline elite fantasy production at the pro level. Dual-threat QBs tend to be a bit of a cheat code in fantasy land, and it’s a pretty useful asset to feature in real-life offenses as well.

Willing to go through progressions as a pocket passer

You might assume that Daniels’s ridiculous rushing ability makes him a bit of a run-first QB who needs to learn how to be better at winning from the pocket.

But in reality, he's not! While having Malik Nabers and Brian Thomas Jr. constantly winning their respective one-on-one battles on the outside sure as hell helped matters, Daniels deserves a lot of credit for his repeated ability to win from the pocket.

As NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein eloquently puts it:

Teams must also recognize that he has no issues sitting in the pocket and working through progressions as a platform thrower with good mechanics and footwork. Daniels possesses the football intelligence to get himself protected and take care of the football with quality decision-making. He’s an accurate passer over the first two levels and throws with anticipation to slice and dice zone coverages.”

Jayden Daniels

Quarterback Jayden Daniels 5 as the LSU Tigers take on Texas A&M in Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, November 25, 2023. Photo Credit: SCOTT CLAUSE/USA TODAY Network / USA TODAY NETWORK

Daniels also scored well in “stable metrics” for QBs per PFF’s 2024 NFL Draft guide. These are defined as metrics that tend to be more predictive of future success than unstable metrics.

The most stable facets of QB play are those with the biggest sample sizes, even though they intuitively seem “easier.” Here's how Daniels ranked in those five corresponding stable metrics:

  • No pressure grade: 93rd percentile
  • Early-down grade: 93rd
  • No play-action grade: 98th
  • Negative play % grade: 98th
  • Passes past the sticks grade: 97th

There are countless examples of Daniels putting the football exactly where it needed to be downfield. His deep slot fades in particular were often b-e-a-utiful. The man didn’t throw for 40 TDs in 12 games by accident last season, as Daniels consistently made the most out of his (admittingly pristine) offensive environment at LSU.

For (mostly) better and worse: Daniels’ deep ball and speed forced defenses to account for virtually every square inch of the field when he was under center. This isn’t a trait that all QBs possess, so even if Daniels were to struggle as a rookie in the NFL, he should still have a pretty high fantasy floor given his skillset.


Off-script passing leaves a lot to be desired

Daniels was actually quite a bit more dangerous through the air when getting the ball out of his hands quickly as opposed to when he looked to extend the play. Here are the splits on his PFF pass grade by time to throw:

  • 0-3 seconds: 90.9 (2nd among the top six 2024 rookie QBs)
  • Over 3 seconds: 76.8 (6th)

There were still flashes of Daniels making big-time throws on the move, but on the whole, he averaged just an additional 0.4 yards per attempt when holding the ball for more than three seconds compared to under this mark, which was the smallest increase by a full 0.76 yards compared to the draft’s other top QBs.

As Yahoo’s Nate Tice puts it:

Daniels’ escapability is an asset, but there are times he uses his legs as an easy answer to default rather than attempting to operate from the pocket and progress to an answer with his arm, or to work a throw open from outside structure. Even looking at some of Daniels’ best scrambles, you see him passing up open options, sometimes while staring right at them, and instead calling his own number.”

Overall, just 48% of Daniels’s pressured dropbacks ultimately resulted in a pass attempt last season, which ranked 144th among 147 qualifying FBS QBs.

Colt McCoy leaned into this as well, noting a specific instance in which a good eight-yard gain could have been a bigger chunk play through the air had Daniels been a bit more patient. He also seems less willing to throw over the middle of the field, as he completed just 16 total passes last season in that area.

Jayden Daniels

Nov 18, 2023; Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA; LSU Tigers quarterback Jayden Daniels (5) avoids the tackle attempt of Georgia State Panthers safety TyGee Leach (29) in the third quarter at Tiger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Dobbins-USA TODAY Sports

Don’t get it twisted: Having the athletic ability to generate an eight-yard gain when there’s not an overly obvious better plan is great! There are also plenty of examples of Daniels throwing over the middle with great timing and accuracy, so he's capable of doing so even if these throws weren't prevalent on a week-to-week basis.

That said, Daniels really finds himself in some bad company when looking at his ability to not let pressured dropbacks turn into sacks.

Of course, this didn’t lead to too many issues with LSU’s offense last season, but that was a very good surrounding cast, and Daniels may not have that benefit depending on which NFL team drafts him in a month.

Just how much help did Daniels get at LSU?

The answer is a lot. And by a lot, I mean like “this was arguably the single most cozy offensive environment in college football last season” a lot.

Daniels is obviously a damn good football player, but I was generally more impressed with Nabers and (to a lesser extent, Thomas) when watching LSU games from last season. This has naturally brought up some comparisons to Justin Fields coming out of Ohio State a few years ago. Just how much of Daniels’s passing success in 2023 can be attributed to him when he had clean pockets and wide-open receivers?

College football players are certainly allowed to get better as they play more football (what a concept), but how would Daniels stack up against the rest of this QB class if we were simply judging him on his three seasons at Arizona State? It’s fair to be a bit more concerned about Daniels’s ability to speed up processing when he already has a whopping 55 collegiate starts to his name.

Fantasy Football Outlook for Jayden Daniels

I’m personally Team Caleb Williams and Drake Maye over Daniels in dynasty land, but it’s tough to argue with the immediate upside that the LSU star brings to the table in 2024.

Those extra years of development in college should pay early dividends, and honestly, even average passing production should be more than enough to keep the good times rolling for fantasy purposes given that Daniels will be a lethal threat to add rushing production.

Jayden Daniels

Nov 4, 2023; Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide defensive lineman Justin Eboigbe (92) makes a tackle on LSU Tigers quarterback Jayden Daniels (5) at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Alabama defeated LSU 42-28. Mandatory Credit: Gary Cosby Jr.-USA TODAY Sports

The aforementioned issues with pressure aside: Those other QBs who didn't pan out at the NFL level didn’t have Daniels’s combination of passing ability from the pocket and legit game-breaking ability on the ground. It’d be a lot cooler if Daniels could speed up his processing sooner rather than later, but he might just be the sort of outlier talent capable of getting away with it even at the pro level.

For this reason, I support prioritizing Daniels ahead of the elderly pocket passers in his tier like Jared GoffKirk CousinsMatthew Stafford and Aaron Rodgers in redraft and best ball. It’s not that those veterans can’t out-perform Daniels, but at that ADP range, Daniels is likely your QB2.

Because of that, I prefer shooting for the moon and hopefully snatching up the next great dual-threat QB at a steep discount.

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