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Five things to know about Commanders QB Jayden Daniels

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The Washington Commanders have drafted LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. Here are five things to know about the team's newest signal-caller.

1. He's one of the most successful dual threat quarterbacks in FBS history.

College football has been dominated by mobile quarterbacks for most of recent history. Sure, there are some who can operate better from the pocket than others, but even the "traditional" players have some ability with their legs.

You'd be hard-pressed to find one better than Daniels. In fact, there are several stats that solidify him as one of the best.

We'll start with the obvious. Daniels wrapped up his college career as the only quarterback in FBS history with at least 12,000 passing yards and 3,000 rushing yards. To be more specific, Daniels accumulated 16,056 total yards in five seasons, averaging 7.8 yards per touch and 123 touchdowns.

Daniels did it all for the Tigers last season, regardless of whether he was in the pocket or using his legs. His 95.6 QBR was the best in college football and ranked third among 73 Power Five quarterbacks with a rushing grade of 92.4. Both played a part in Daniels winning the Heisman, Davey O'Brien, Manning and Johnny Unitas Golden Arm awards.

No matter how he did it, Daniels elevated LSU's offense. Now, he's expected to do the same with the Burgundy & Gold.

Check out the top photos of Washington Commanders quarterback Jayden Daniels from his days at LSU and Arizona State. (Photos via The Associated Press)

2. He's an insanely hard worker.

Daniels has always been a dynamic athlete, but there was a clear difference between his performances at Arizona State and those at LSU. He read the field better, was smarter about when to run and improved his deep ball accuracy.

How did he manage to go from a good player to one of the top quarterbacks in college football? It comes down to hard work.

"First player in the building, last guy to leave, any chance he could get to throw to those guys he would," wrote On3's Cody Bellaire. "But he really committed to learning that offense backwards and forwards."

Daniels spent so much time in the LSU facility that he had to ask for extended access to the building. He gets up at 5:30 a.m. to start watching film. Sometimes he watched with his receivers; other times, he was by himself.

"I don't have to worry about any other distractions," Daniels said. "I'm pretty much the only one in the building at the time. It's me, myself and my thoughts."

Daniels also went through a rigorous offseason workout plan ahead of the 2023 season, working with his personal position coach in California. They implemented a virtual-reality flight simulator from Germany that helped him practice reps at game speed.

The results show how much that work paid off. He set career-highs in completion rate (72.2%), yards per completion (11.7) and touchdowns (40).

"He's made some throws where he gets hit in the mouth this year and it's just throwing strikes down the field," said Senior Bowl executive director Jim Nagy. "He's making a lot more NFL-type throws under duress and down the field than we've seen in the past."

3. Family means everything to him.

Daniels didn't get to this point in his career by himself. He's had a massive support group since he started playing football. He knows how important they are to his success, and he took some time earlier this month to show his appreciation for a Players' Tribune piece.

"As the draft gets closer, I've been thinking a lot about the moments along my journey that have brought me to this point," Daniels wrote April 3. "And there's a lot of them. But first and foremost, I need to shine a light on my grandfather."

Daniels started with his grandfather because he was there "every step of the way, for 20 years of my life." He picked Daniels up from school, took him to practice and was like a best friend. Daniels was heartbroken when his grandfather passed away, followed by his grandmother two weeks later. The grief, as hard as it was, taught Daniels that "you really gotta love the ones that love you, because you never know when that time might be up."

His grandparents weren't the only ones who helped him get to the NFL. His mom, dad, sister and extended family were all there to help him achieve his dream. "It takes a village," Daniels wrote, "to get in this position. It also takes a lot of love. I just want to thank all of the people who helped me get to this point.

"I'm grateful for the people who loved and believed in me enough to invest their time and energy, just so I could have a shot at reaching my dreams."

4. He was one of the best deep-ball passers in college football.

It's clear that Daniels knows how to hurt defenses with his legs. He had 41 runs of at least 10 yards with 565 yards after contact and 51 rushing first downs.

But what about his ability to deliver clutch throws? Well, Daniels was dynamic in that category last year, too.

Daniels was the best quarterback in college football on passes of at least 20 yards, earning a 99.2 grade from Pro Football Focus in 2023. He had 27 big-time throws on deep passes, which tied for third with Michael Penix Jr., with just one turnover-worthy play. He wasn't asked to sling the ball downfield often, with such throws only accounting for 16.6% of his 332 attempts, but his completion rate of 63.6% was the best among quarterbacks with at least 55 deep throw attempts.

And just for the sake of comparison, Daniels' 22 deep-ball touchdowns were more than Caleb Williams (15), Penix (14), Maye (13) and McCarthy (10).

The Commanders have several speedy wideouts on their roster, so players like Terry McLaurin and Jahan Dotson should love a quarterback who's going to give them shots downfield.

5. Good luck blitzing him.

All quarterbacks face pressure, and that's particularly true when you're a playmaker like Daniels. He was blitzed on 39.2% of his dropbacks, and like all quarterbacks, there were times when the pressure got to him (although, for what it's worth, he improved his sack total from 43 to 22 in 2023).

Those situations were also when Daniels was at his best. He ranked first among all FBS quarterbacks when blitzed, with PFF giving him a grade of 91.7. He completed 74.4% of his passes, throwing 20 touchdowns to zero interceptions with 10 big-time throws. He also accounted for 1,515 yards when blitzed, which ranked second behind Brayden Schager.

When it comes to overall pressure, Daniels ranked fourth overall and second among this year's top quarterback prospects with a PFF grade of 82.2. As a runner, Daniels was even more effective, leading his position with a grade of 87.3.

The Commanders have needed a player who knows how to perform when plays break down. They've had that at various moments over the years but not to the point where they could consistently be relied upon. Daniels will have growing pains as all rookies do, but his calm demeanor under pressure should help him take those moments in stride as he learns how to be an NFL signal-caller.

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