Jayden Daniels won almost every damn award in college football before NFL Draft

With QB Caleb Williams all but officially a member of the Chicago Bears, the 2024 NFL draft starts with the Washington Commanders and the second overall pick. Washington has turned the page to a new era with a new owner, front office and head coach, but the franchise’s future could depend on getting their first-round pick right.

The Commanders are not alone as the New England Patriots, owners of the third overall selection, are also setting out on a new path going into 2024. While Robert Kraft remains the owner, Bill Belichick the head coach has been replaced by Jerod Mayo while Bill Belichick the GM has been replaced by Eliot Wolf.

Quarterbacks are expected to be selected with the first three selections led by Williams in Chicago with Heisman Trophy winner Jayden Daniels and UNC’s Drake Maye expected to follow shortly behind.

The son of a college cornerback, Daniels wanted the ball in his hands more often than his father. He started working with a quarterbacks coach at 10 years old and was the starting quarterback as a freshman at Cajon High School in California.

A four-star recruit out of high school, Daniels started 12 games as a freshman at Arizona State University in 2019. Despite only completing 60.7% of his passes, Daniels threw for just under 3,000 yards with 17 touchdowns and just two interceptions in his first college season.

The future looked bright for the Sun Devils with Daniels at the helm as the dual-threat QB also ran for 355 yards and three touchdowns that first year.

The COVID pandemic limited Arizona State to four games in 2020 and by the summer of 2021, Sun Devils head coach Herm Edwards and the program were under investigation for recruiting violations. Daniels had his worst college season that year with just 2,381 yards passing with 10 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

Despite hoping to play three years of college ball before entering the pros, Daniels instead decided to transfer and found a landing spot with the LSU Tigers. Joining head coach Brian Kelly, who had just taken over after over a decade with Notre Dame, Daniels was given the keys to an explosive offense.

In 2022 as a true senior, Daniels completed 68.6% of his passes with 17 touchdowns and just three interceptions. Kelly also unlocked his quarterback’s rushing potential to the tune of 885 yards and 11 touchdowns that season.

Seen as a Day 2 pick in the 2023 NFL draft, Daniels made the decision to return for another year with the Tigers. Not only is that decision expected to pay off in the 2024 NFL draft but Daniels’ Heisman Trophy-winning season was one for the ages.

Daniels had career highs in completion percentage (72.2%), passing yards (3,812), yards per attempt (11.7), touchdown passes (40) and rushing yards (1134). He also threw just four interceptions and lost just one fumble despite having over 450 combine passing and rushing attempts.

The list of awards for Daniels in 2023 is lengthy:

  • Heisman Trophy
  • Walter Camp Award
  • AP College Football Player of the Year
  • Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award
  • Davey O’Brien Award
  • Manning Award
  • Sports News College Football Player of the Year
  • Consensus All-American
  • SEC Offensive Player of the Year
  • First team All-SEC

Early on Day 1 of the 2024 NFL draft, the 6’4 prospect will be looked at as the next franchise guy by a team and a fan base begging for one. Based on rumors that started at the NFL Combine and have continued since, the Commanders will select the reigning Heisman Trophy winner as their first step in moving on from the Daniel Snyder era.

If Washington passes, the Patriots could set a new path with Daniels or reap a haul in a trade with a team desperate to acquire the electric, talented quarterback.

From starting as a freshman in high school and then at Arizona State to dominating the SEC in 2023, Daniels’ resume speaks for itself. Now, the dual-threat star will get a chance to shine at the next level.

His history says no one should doubt that he will do just that.

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