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For Commanders, there was never any doubt: Jayden Daniels was right pick


As Adam Peters sat down to answer questions from the media Thursday night, the Washington Commanders general manager had a question for them: "How's everybody doing?" He waited a second before saying, "Not as good as me."

That matches the vibe that permeated throughout the Commanders facility after taking former LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels with the No. 2 overall pick. Although the team was coy about the direction they intended to go, it was clear that the roster needed an answer at quarterback for the franchise's new era.

To them, Daniels was always the answer.

"We knew it was Jayden for a while, and it would've taken a lot for it to not be Jayden," Peters said. "It was the building. The whole building was in."

That's not to say that the entire draft process was just a show. Peters, coach Dan Quinn and the rest of the Commanders' brass did their homework on each of the top quarterbacks, attending their pro days and inviting them all to the facility for visits.

Daniels kept standing out, though, and the reason is simple: he can do things the other quarterbacks cannot, both as a runner and passer.

"I honestly couldn't believe how good he was and saw him on TV, saw him on highlights and everything," Peters said. "But when you really study him as a quarterback, just as a quarterback, he's really, really good."

Even when it was clear to the Commanders that Daniels was their guy, they still did their work to make sure they had it right. They spoke to LSU head coach Brian Kelly and former Arizona State head coach Herm Edward. They even reached out to people who knew him in high school. Every person had "exemplary" things to say about his personal and football character, work ethic, leadership and more.

"We felt so good about how awesome of a person that he was on top of watching all that tape," Peters said. "It made us feel really, really good about making this pick. And if we could've run it up, we would've run that pick up."

Take a look at the moment the Washington Commanders informed Jayden Daniels that he would be their No. 2 overall pick. (Photos by Emilee Fails and Kourtney Carroll/Washington Commanders)

That confidence stems from Daniels being everything the Commanders are looking for in the draft. "He's the best deep ball thrower we thought in the draft," Peters said, and there's plenty of evidence that points to that being true. He 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.

And thanks in part to his rigorous film study, both with his teammates and on his own using virtual-reality simulations, his knowledge of how to attack defenses with his arm gives him an advantage.

"Does he know where to go with the ball?", Peters said. "Does he see the blitz? Does he know where his hots are? I keep talking about being able to play the position first, and he can do it, and he does it well. And that's a big part of it."

But what truly separated Daniels from the rest of the quarterbacks available was his skill set as a runner. His "instinctive" talent to know how to use his speed and acceleration in a way that attacks defensive edges in the SEC is what made him so difficult of a matchup.

As Peters put it, "the way he runs, we talk about it kind of takes your soul as a defense."

"There's defenders that think they have a great angle on him, and then next thing you know, he is gone because he is never slowing down and he is attacking edges," Peters said. "So, I think you can teach that, but a lot of it is instinct and also, he is really fast. He's going to run over 21 miles an hour, which is as fast as a quarterback can get really."

The next step for the Commanders is to build an offense that best utilizes Daniels' skill set. That's where offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury, who had "a lot of input in the process," comes into the picture.

Kingsbury's history with developing young quarterbacks gives Peters confidence that he can mold the scheme around Daniels, and the other coaches with experience in mentoring quarterbacks -- assistant head coach/offensive pass game coordinator Brian Johnson, quarterbacks coach Tavita Pritchard and assistant quarterbacks coach David Blough -- allows Washington to "surround him and support him to be the best he can."

It shouldn't be a surprise that Kingsbury was all in on Daniels.

"He was a very, very, very big fan of Jayden, like all of us," Peters said. "And he is extremely fired up."

Time will tell as to how Daniels' career will pan out. He hasn't officially been named the starter, although everything points to that being the case. The Commanders had a rare opportunity that they hoped they would never have again, and they knew they needed to get it right.

Based on the smile that seems perpetually painted on Peters' face since they were on the clock, they believe they accomplished that goal.

"To us," Peters said, "he was special in every way."

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