2024 NFL Draft Grades | Analysts hail Commanders for picking ‘game-changer’ at No. 2

The Commanders added a dual-threat signal-caller to their squad with their first pick in the 2024 NFL Draft, selecting LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels, and the decision has been praised by league pundits.

Most expected the Commanders to draft a quarterback with the No. 2 overall pick on Night 1, as the position has been, to put it simply, a huge pain area for the organization for the past few years. While a dozen mocks speculated on who Washington’s brass might choose with No. 2, it was generally limited down to a small handful of individuals, and Daniels was one name in particular that kept coming up with the Burgundy and Gold.

And with good reason. He possesses all of the characteristics that a team searching for a franchise quarterback would desire, including deep-ball accuracy, the ability to make plays with his legs, a high football IQ, leadership abilities, a one-of-a-kind work ethic, and the list goes on. In his news conference last night, general manager Adam Peters simply stated: “To us, he was special in every way on and off the field.”

Here’s how draft pundits rated the move.

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**Chad Reuter (NFL.com): A**

Analysis: “Daniels’ rise during his senior season culminated in this moment. The inconsistency that plagued his career at Arizona State and LSU vanished, particularly in the second half of the season, when his decisiveness in the pocket allowed throws to strike their targets and his elusiveness and speed as a runner gave opponents fits. The aim is that Daniels continues to gain weight as he matures, making him stronger in the pocket and allowing him to distribute the ball to Commanders receivers Jahan Dotson and Terry McLaurin.

Analysis: “I love this pick. It’s a great situation for a rookie. The team has a new owner, coach and now quarterback. They can grow together. He will be the best QB in this class.”

Rob Rang (FOX Sports): A

Analysis: “The reigning Heisman Trophy winner possesses a stunning combination of slithery scrambling skills and deep-ball precision, making him a terror to stop. He is a divisive prospect among evaluators owing to his relatively small physique and the fact that his production at LSU was obviously aided by an outstanding receiving corps, but Daniels was a game changer even at Arizona State and continued to improve throughout college. For a defensive-minded head coach like Dan Quinn, Daniels’ maturity and dual-threat abilities are obvious reasons why the Commanders regard him as the ideal leader for Washington’s rebuild.

Analysis: “The Commanders made the right choice over Drake Maye given Daniels can be like Lamar Jackson with his running ability and big-play passing. That lines up well with new offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury, who made the most out of Kyler Murray in Arizona early. Daniels has a high athletic ceiling as a fellow Heisman winner to Williams.

Chet Gresham (Draft Kings): A

Analysis: “Daniels earned the Heisman Trophy after an outstanding 2023. His pace is noticeable off the field, but his pocket presence, accuracy, and touch are big assets. He’ll need to learn to protect himself as a runner in the NFL, but if he can remain healthy, he’s a promising start to a new era in Washington. His ability to run should help him keep the offense flowing as he acclimate to the NFL. This was a no-brainer decision because the Commanders got their man.”

Matt Verderame (Sports Illustrated): B+

Analysis: “Daniels has skyrocketed in the last year, going from a pro afterthought to a top pick. Daniels won the Heisman Trophy last year with LSU after scoring 50 touchdowns (40 of which were thrown).

“In Washington, Daniels inherits a team with a revamped offensive line and a top receiver in Terry McLaurin.” However, he inherits an organization starved for success, led by wholly new personnel from ownership to coaching staff. “Big changes for everyone involved.”

Joseph Acosta (SB Nation): B+

Analysis: “The Commanders needed a QB who could provide some pop, and Daniels does that. He’s a big play waiting to happen with his arm and legs, and those explosive plays will work well with Kliff Kingsbury. I have a lot of questions about his ability to mitigate taking massive shots as a runner and passer, and his ability to throw over the middle, but he won’t be asked to do so in Washington. This is a good pick.”
Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz (USA TODAY): B
Analysis: “Make no mistake, this is a plenty exciting move for Washington to kick-start a new day under Dan Quinn and Adam Peters. But this might not necessarily be the safe pick some deem it to be. The Heisman Trophy winner can be an electric presence behind center. Still, Daniels needs to speed up his processing and learn to attack the middle of the field more often. Above all, it’s on the Commanders to leverage his scintillating running skills and ability to pick apart defenses from the pocket while keeping him off a Justin Fields-like trajectory in the early portion of his career.”


Brent Sobleski (Bleacher Report): B

Analysis: “No prospect had a greater rise throughout the 2023 campaign than LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels.

The Arizona State transfer improved after joining the Tigers in 2022. However, he erupted for a Heisman Trophy-winning performance this fall. Daniels threw for 3,812 yards, ran for 1,134 more, and scored 50 touchdowns in his final year on campus.

In addition to being an experienced upperclassman, Daniels benefited from what amounts to a quarterback “flight simulator” supervised by LSU’s head of performance innovation, Jack Mariucci, which allowed him additional mental reps in game-like settings.

“It kind of put him into a visualization,” LSU quarterback coach Joe Sloan told The Athletic’s Alec Lewis. “I believe it’s simply about making judgments. Take a decision.

Take a decision. Take a decision. It was an opportunity to sit there and make several selections in a short period of time while not sweating. It’s big. As Daniels improved as a passer, his athleticism allowed him to reach his full potential since opponents couldn’t manage both aspects of his game. The 6’4”, 210-pound dual-threat option takes a lot of hits and needs to improve his protection in the NFL.

LSU’s system also did not allow Daniels to consistently work the middle of the field, an area in which he must continue to improve. Otherwise, the reigning AP College Football Player of the Year should be an immediate threat in the NFL.

“I tell people this: Outside of Patrick Mahomes, I haven’t coached against someone like this,” an FBS opponent told The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman of Daniels. “He’s just so hard to defend. We tried to force him to run in order to get it out of his hands. I think his throwing ability and timing were second to none. He tosses the deep ball with exceptional accuracy.”

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