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A Patriots Fan's Draft Wish List: Jayden Daniels

Jonathan Bachman. Getty Images.

Like I said when I did the first of these posts putting Drake Maye on my Bridal Registry, at the beginning of this process, it looked for all the world like the Commanders were taking Maye, leaving New England with Jayden Daniels. And I was more than good with that. 

But in the imperfect science that is NFL draft punditry, the narrative has shifted. It looks more and more like Daniels won't get past Washington. At least according to a majority of the mock drafts, 57% of whom have him going second. And also the duplicitous, back-stabbing fraud who coached him the last two seasons and can't keep a secret unless it involves him quitting on Notre Dame as they're about to compete for a National Championship.

Still, there remains the very real possibility that the draft gurus are wrong, Kelly is still an insipid, untrustworthy imbecile, and Daniels will still be available with the third pick. Which would make Daniels the eighth Heisman winner to play for the Patriots, the first since Cam Newton, and the first to be drafted by them since Jim Plunkett went No. 1 overall in 1971. They could do a hell of a lot worse.

Jayden Daniels, LSU. 6-foot-4, 210 pounds

Prior to attending UNC's Pro Day to check out Maye, the Patriots sent the Fellowship of the 7th Ring to Baton Rouge to look at Daniels:

And like Maye did in Chapel Hill, Daniels completed the kind of throws not seen in Foxboro since Tom Brady was on one end and Randy Moss was on the other:

By all accounts, Daniels checked pretty much every box on the Franchise Quarterback Punchlist, both from the immeasurable stuff you have to have at a position where leadershippishness is mandatory:

Patriots.com - Whether it was somewhat performative or not, Daniels was highly engaged while sitting out the athletic testing portion to support his teammates. For what it's worth, it looked genuine, especially when he ran down to the other end of the field to celebrate with Nabers after his go-to receiver ran his 40-yard dash. There's a lot of love between Daniels, Nabers, and Thomas Jr. that has been palpable throughout the pre-draft process.

Furthermore, rather than wearing his own number, Daniels wore the No. 3 for teammate Greg Brooks Jr., who was diagnosed with cancer last season. Daniels seems like a high-character individual, with LSU staffers praising his humbleness and sense of humor.

If not necessarily the things you can measure, like completions:

Overall, there were more missed throws than you'd expect for a Pro Day from Daniels, who had five incompletions during the session where he overthrew his intended target. Mainly, he had two misses to the left sideline, which seemed like he was trying to show off his arm strength a little too much.

At a position where the bust rate is alarmingly high and a draft slot where mistakes can set your franchise back a half a decade or more, you could do a hell of a lot worse than put your future in the hands of a guy with Daniels experience coming off one of the best seasons in history.

Overall: Bill Parcells famously used to require all his college scouts to confine themselves only to quarterbacks who hit certain career milestones in starts, wins, attempts, touchdown passes and the like. Those standards went obsolote a long time ago, and you get guys drafted in the Top 10 all the time now after one complete season (see Mitchell Trubisky). But in that regard, Daniels is like a living specimen from a species you thought went extinct. He's been a starter for five years, three at Arizona St. and two at LSU. With 55 starts, a 37-19 record, 124 total touchdowns, and he's the only player in FBS history to pass for 12,000 yards and rush for 3,000. More to the point, he's gotten better with age, as last year's 236-of-327, 72.2%, for 3,00 passing yards with 40 TDs and only 4 interceptions. He added 1,134 rushing yards on 135 carries with 10 TDs. His 11.7 passing yards per attempt and 8.4 rushing yards per attempt both led the FBS. And his 208 passer rating was the highest ever recorded. So good on him, I guess? 

Positives: What else do you need? How about his deep-ball accuracy, which is the highest ever recorded:

Beyond that, he's made a steady progression over his five seasons. He's got sound, refined mechanics. His footwork in the pocket is impeccable. He's shown the poise to stand up against pressure as the pocket gets filthy. And the obvious arm talent to attack the deep parts of the field, inside and out. 

Negatives: A lot of this can be laid at the feet of LSU and its system, but there's some questions about the way Daniels didn't throw guys open with anticipation throws. He ran more of a read-through-your-progressions type scheme than getting the ball into tight windows or putting it in the air before a target makes his break. Which is not a knock. It's just a question that might have to be answered at the next level. If you really want to pick nits with his game, you can find big plays he made with his legs where he had someone coming open but didn't see him. Though no one accuses him of being someone who tucks the ball and scrambles at the first sign of trouble like, say, Johnny Manziel. (Who also put up insane Daniels-like numbers.) He's also not the arm talent of a Maye. He can drive the ball alright. But it's not a natural, twitchy throwing motion. Which leads to him missing throws on your short and intermediate routes where a lot of NFL teams prefer to operate. Now I'll get to obvious negative of him that everyone's heard by now: His weight. I've waited until now not because I think it's saving the best for last. But because it's the least consequential. If a $2 million NFL strength-and-conditioning operation can't figure out how to put some muscle on a 6-4 highly athletic 23-year-old's body, the whole staff needs to be put on landscaping and sanitation duty and replaced with the personal trainers at the nearest Planet Fitness.

The Generic Equivalent of: Lamar Jackson

It's looking for all the world like the Patriots won't be facing a choice between Maye and Daniels. If they were, I'd probably choose Maye, just for his higher ceiling, and because he's two years younger and this will be a long rebuild. But if they have to "settle" for the more plug-and-play, NFL ready QB who broke every record in the books on the way to winning a Heisman, while gunning the ball over defenses and consistently outrunning SEC defensive backs? I can live with that consolation prize. The fate of our quarterback spot is in Washington's hands. Let's have faith that they'll F it up.