What QB Jayden Daniels would bring to the Patriots if drafted at third overall

NFL

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Quick-hit thoughts and notes around the New England Patriots and NFL:

1. Dynamic Daniels: When Patriots coach Jerod Mayo envisions how the 2024 NFL draft — which owner Robert Kraft has called the most anticipated in his 31-year tenure — unfolds, he sees the Commanders as the wild card.

The Patriots have the No. 3 pick, their highest ever under Kraft. The Commanders are at No. 2.

“I don’t think anyone knows exactly what Washington is going to do. I think everyone knows what Chicago is going to do at 1. But the rest of it honestly is just up in the air,” Mayo said.

Mayo is like many who assume the Bears will select USC quarterback Caleb Williams at No. 1. He’s preparing for multiple scenarios after that, and if the buzz coming out of the NFL’s annual meeting in Orlando, Florida, last week is any indication, the Commanders are too.

Part of the reason Washington’s new regime, led by general manager Adam Peters and coach Dan Quinn, attended pro days for LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels and North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye last week — just as the Patriots’ top decision-makers did — is that they say they are still undecided on their plans.

Many view Daniels and Maye as the most likely options to go second and third, and if Daniels is somehow there for the Patriots, his first college coach thinks it would be the ultimate coup.

“If I was picking No. 1, I’m picking Jayden Daniels. Maybe I’m a little biased because I know the kid,” said Herm Edwards, who landed Daniels as a recruit at Arizona State in 2019 and coached him for three seasons before Daniels transferred to LSU.

“When he came to us, his whole deal was that he wanted to be three [years] and done. I told him, ‘Look, you have to gain more weight. You need more reps.’ So the great part is that when he decided to go [to LSU] — he came into my office and I gave him a hug and I said, ‘You have to go’ — now he’s played 56 college football games. That’s a lot of tape and that helps him.”

Daniels elevated his performance in 2023 to win the Heisman Trophy, completing 72.2% of his passes, finishing 236-of-327 for 3,812 passing yards with 40 touchdowns and just 4 interceptions. He added 1,134 rushing yards on 135 carries (8.4 YPC) with 10 touchdowns.

In some ways, Edwards compares Daniels’ skill set to his final season playing for the Philadelphia Eagles in 1985, when the team was on the cusp of transitioning from pocket-passer Ron Jaworski to Randall Cunningham.

“When Randall got there, it was like, ‘Whoa, look at this dude.’ He was the athlete who could run and he could throw it, too, especially down the field. That’s what Jayden does,” he said.

“This is the guy that gets off script and can make plays the defense can’t defend, that they haven’t seen. That’s the hardest thing when you get a quarterback like this — you can’t script what he is going to do. You just don’t know, because he doesn’t know, until he sees it with his eyes and says, ‘OK, I have to get out of here and make a play.'”

One of the questions scouts have about Daniels is if his style of play running-wise and narrow frame are built to last in the NFL because he might be vulnerable to more contact. Daniels didn’t take official measurements at the NFL combine in February, electing to wait until LSU’s pro day this past Wednesday, where he was measured at 6-foot-3 5/8 and 210 pounds — which might be heavier than his playing weight at LSU. In contrast, Maye measured 6-foot-4 3/8 and 223 pounds.

Edwards said that when Daniels first arrived at Arizona State, he was 189 pounds. He has watched Daniels grow since that time — in more ways than one.

“I had him at 18. Now he’s 23, so he’s a young man and he gets it, he understands the quarterback position. He played in the SEC the last two years and they didn’t beat him up. He was in every game and he’s that kind of guy, man,” Edwards said.

Specific to the Patriots, Mayo said some of the things he’ll be looking for when evaluating quarterbacks is how they learn and deal with adversity. He also coined the phrase “culture add” while noting the importance of assessing their leadership style and personal character.

For this part, Edwards believes Daniels would not only bring electrifying play but also a steadying presence.

“He’s outgoing, but he’s not loud. He’s real calm. He’s not a confrontation guy, like you saw with Tom Brady. He’s more the type of come over and talk to the guys and get it squared away. When it’s going hot and it’s hard, there is no panic in this dude.”

2. Brady night: The greatest player in Patriots history deserves the greatest send-off, and plans are moving forward for Tom Brady’s unprecedented Patriots Hall of Fame induction ceremony inside Gillette Stadium on Wednesday, June 12, at 7 p.m. ET.

Next week, Patriots season-ticket members will be sent ticket information, and they will be given preferred pricing for the event through April 12. If there is remaining inventory after the presale process, it will be made available to the general public later in April. For longtime New England sports fans, it sounds like this could be similar to the historic “Larry Bird Night” in 1993.

3. Highsmith’s role: Last Monday, Mayo relayed something recently hired senior personnel executive Alonzo Highsmith told him based on his front office experience with the Packers (2012-2017), Browns (2018-2019) and Seahawks (2020-2022).

“He said all the bad picks he’s seen, it’s really been where everyone wasn’t on the same page. You would hope you could get everyone on the same page — coaches and also scouts. If you have one person drafting, that’s not [good],” Mayo said. “… We have scouts across the board where everyone has their different opinions. So you want to start with hearing those, but at some time you have to kind of shrink the group and come to some common ground. We’re close.”

Two days later, Highsmith was among a nine-person Patriots contingent of scouts and coaches at pro days for Daniels and Maye — a reflection of his standing as a top aide to director of scouting Eliot Wolf and Mayo, and also how the Patriots are attempting to achieve that alignment.

4. ‘Systems change’: One of the themes from Kraft’s remarks at the NFL annual meeting — which shed further light on his decision-making process with Mayo — is his viewpoint on “how systems have changed” over the past 10-15 years. That topic also came up during Kraft’s appearance on “The Shop,” the show starring LeBron James and businessman Maverick Carter, who have conversations and debates in a barbershop.

“In the last decade, the players coming into the locker room are different,” Kraft said as he sat alongside Raiders wide receiver Davante Adams. “So how you relate to them, how you connect … I think [Mayo] can relate to young people today.”

Adams, entering his 11th NFL season, agreed with the overall point, saying: “In order for the team to realize and fulfill their full potential, you need somebody they’re willing to play for. You’re seeing a difference [from when I came into the league] … the way you talk to them, the verbiage or understanding you approach them with; when you have guys that have lived it a little bit [as players] you can unlock a little bit of something with a few players.”

5. DMac’s ideal draft: The Patriots held their annual pre-draft preview for season-ticket members on Saturday at Gillette Stadium, with former safety and current NBC “Football Night in America” analyst Devin McCourty serving both on the panel and as an interviewee of Mayo and director of college scouting Camren Williams.

One of the highlights came when McCourty described his ideal draft for the team, which drew an audible cheer from the sellout crowd of several thousand: “As much as I love defense, I would love to see first round/offense, second round/offense, third round/offense. Just keep it rolling and go get offensive guys! That’s where it’s needed the most.”

6. Coaching week: Mayo stressed the importance of the week ahead for his coaching staff, and how the coaches are making a significant transition from draft preparation to X’s and O’s that will show up during the season. The Patriots could have started their voluntary offseason program Monday, but Mayo elected to wait until April 8 so he could focus on the staff.

“I want this week to be dedicated to the coaches, because now we’re not scouting as much,” he said. “We brought in 17 new coaches. It is a balance between having those guys scout and also learning our own offense and defense, and teaching the other coaches.”

7. Reagor’s rise? With the NFL adopting a new rule to promote more kickoff returns, it could enhance Jalen Reagor‘s chances to stick on the roster as a depth-based receiver. Reagor had one of the NFL’s four kickoff returns for a touchdown last season (98 yards vs. Buffalo). Overall, the Patriots had just 18 kickoff returns in 2023. In a reflection of how much kickoff returns have declined, consider that from 2000 to 2009, the Patriots averaged 61.2 kickoff returns per season. From 2010 to 2019, they averaged 34.6.

8. They said it: “They’re been great [conversations]; Coach Mayo, and just in there talking with new offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt, and learning their stuff. Such a historic program and team and history up there in New England, so just getting a chance to know them, what they’re about, and their champion mindset of getting back to the glory days has been cool.” — Maye, at his pro day Thursday, on meeting with the Patriots

9. Preseason plans: Nothing is finalized, but buzz at the NFL’s annual meeting had the Patriots likely hosting the first two games of the preseason, before traveling in the third week. Preseason games can lack sizzle, but if the Patriots select a quarterback at No. 3, it could spark more interest in them because that prospect would likely play a significant amount of the game.

10. Did you know: Mayo (first round) and Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell (third round) were part of the Patriots’ 2008 draft class; this marks just the second time in the common draft era that a team selected two players in the same class who became head coaches. The Bears’ class of 1981, with Mike Singletary (second round) and Jeff Fisher (seventh), was the other.

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