New England Patriots

Breer: Daniels has ‘made up a lot of ground' on Maye in eyes of NFL execs

"The response I got was actually pretty eye-opening."

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Jayden Daniels was not projected to be a first-round pick in the 2024 NFL Draft when the college football season started back in August, but the LSU quarterback has rocketed up the draft boards ever since and might even sneak into the top three.

Daniels won the Heisman Trophy after completing 72.2 percent of his pass attempts for 3,812 yards with 40 touchdowns and four interceptions. He also made a tremendous impact with his legs and tallied 1,134 yards (8.4 per carry) and 10 touchdowns on the ground.

It's hard to imagine Caleb Williams not being the No. 1 overall pick, even though the USC quarterback didn't play as well this season as he did during his Heisman-winning 2022 campaign.

The real debate likely starts with Daniels and Drake Maye. The UNC quarterback has been the consensus No. 2 pick for much of the season, but according to Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer, the gap between Maye and Daniels is closing.

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"They're pretty different as players, but it sounds to me a lot like Jayden Daniels is starting to catch up to Drake Maye," Breer said Sunday on NBC Sports Boston's Patriots Pregame Live. "Now, that's not saying he's gonna pass him, because I think Caleb Williams and Drake Maye, in all likelihood, will be the first and second overall picks. But I polled a number of executives and scouts over the last 24 hours, so this is fresh information, and the response I got was actually pretty eye-opening.

"One AFC executive said to me, 'Jayden's actually pulling away from Maye in my eyes. He's got rare deep accuracy. He's an explosive runner who's a pocket passer. I look at him like Deshaun Watson that way.' An NFC executive said to me, 'The gap's not very big anymore, but Jayden has to go to a team that will build around his skill set like the Colts did with Anthony Richardson. He's gonna go early.' I asked if that means top 10. He said yes. And then another AFC exec, a third guy, said there's not much difference between the two as prospects, even though they are different as players.

"Now, there's not universal agreement on Jayden Daniels. I did have one area scout I talked to this morning countered by saying he sees Drake Maye as a Pro Bowl type of prospect with a Dak Prescott floor and a Justin Herbert ceiling, while he sees Daniels' ceiling as a system type of starter similar to how Jimmy Garoppolo or Kirk Cousins had to go to a place that fit them."

Neither Daniels nor Maye will play in their team's bowl games. Both players opted out, like many other top draft prospects on teams that didn't make the College Football Playoff. But even though they don't have any more games, there will be Pro Days, private workouts, 1-on-1 meetings, the NFL Scouting Combine and other ways for teams to gather more information on these prospects.

Daniels might not be ahead of Maye on most teams' draft rankings right now, but that could potentially change over the next few months.

"The bottom line is Jayden Daniels has made up a lot of ground," Breer said. "And so a lot of the teams that are going to be in the quarterback market that may have had one idea about who Jayden Daniels was back in July and August during the early draft meetings, are gonna come out of the next few months with a very different picture of who the LSU star is and where the Heisman Trophy winner might wind up going in April.

"He may have to wait until after Drake Maye, but the wait might not be very long."

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