The New England Patriots could be in the market for a quarterback entering the 2024 NFL Draft, but they might not need a top-two pick to get one of the best players in the upcoming class.
USC's Caleb Williams and UNC's Drake Maye are the consensus top quarterback prospects in the 2024 class, but another player could rapidly rise up draft boards and player rankings over the next couple months.
That player is LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels, who's actually the betting favorite to win the Heisman Trophy.
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"As for quarterbacks that could emerge, I'm gonna give you some names beyond just Caleb Williams and Drake Maye, who we've been talking a lot about over the course of the last four or five months. J.J. McCarthy, Quinn Ewers, Bo Nix, Michael Penix Jr. -- all those guys have a shot," Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer said Sunday on NBC Sports Boston's Patriots Pregame Live.
"The one that's really caught steam over the last five, six, seven weeks is the guy who might wind up winning the Heisman Trophy, and that's Jayden Daniels from LSU. Over the summer I talked to Jordan Palmer, who has known a lot of these guys since high school, and he called Jayden Daniels a 'sleeping giant.' And that was notable to me because it's the same thing he said about Joe Burrow going into the 2019 season."
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One advantage for Daniels over other young quarterbacks is his experience, and that could help him have success early in his NFL career while other rookies take longer to adjust to the pro game.
"If you look at his numbers, he's really exploded this year," Breer said. "He's a phenomenal athlete. He's 6-foot-4, he could put on some weight and that's gonna be an issue that we're gonna be talking a lot about. But here's the other thing: He's got a high number of starts and reps at the college level. He has started over 50 games at two schools.
"And if you look at why Brock Purdy was successful with the 49ers, one of the main reasons why he was able to handle everything is because he played so much in college. So this kid has a lot of the physical traits that you're looking for, has the production you're looking for and has played in a ton of games. So he'd be one that I keep a close eye on in the coming weeks and months."
Phil Perry had Football Gameplan analyst Emory Hunt on the Next Pats Podcast last week. When asked for an NFL player comp for Daniels, Hunt explained that it's a mix of Josh Dobbs and Jalen Hurts.
"He's athletically built like Josh Dobbs, but his playstyle is more like Jalen Hurts," Hunt said. "You can watch an LSU game and you wouldn't know if they're up 30 or down 30. Jayden Daniels has the same demeanor the whole game, so you don't know what's going on in the game, but you need someone that's even-keel like that.
"And it may not look pretty for the full 60 minutes, but when you need it to be effective, it happens, When you need him locked down inside the red zone, he does it. When you need him to make a play with his legs, he not only makes that play, he has that potential to really take it to the house.
"And I said this in a tweet back in October, and people thought I was crazy then, comparing his ability to run with the ball just like Lamar Jackson. He has tremendous body control, and I'm not saying he's as explosive as Lamar, but he's definitely fast. But when you watch him run with the ball, he's so under control. He's so smooth, so silky. You go and look at the Florida game, the run he had, not the long 80-yard touchdown run, but the next one, the one he had to weave his way through the defenders and then get to the end zone, didn't get touched."
Daniels and LSU finished the college football regular season with a 42-30 win over Texas A&M on Saturday. He has completed 72.2 percent of his pass attempts for 3,812 yards with 40 touchdowns and four interceptions. Daniels, as noted above, also makes a tremendous impact with his legs. He has tallied 1,134 yards (8.4 per carry) and 10 touchdowns on the ground.
There aren't a ton of pure pocket passers in the league anymore. Being able to escape the pocket and pick up yards as a runner is crucial to the success of today's quarterbacks, and Daniels certainly fits that mold.
Williams and Maye are fantastic prospects, but getting Daniels in the first round (or early second round) wouldn't be a bad outcome for the Patriots at all.