This isn't what Georgia fans may want to hear, but unfortunately, this is the reality. Quarterback JT Daniels could make himself eligible for the NFL Draft this spring.
Daniels did not get his first start until the Mississippi State game, and he has added three quality starts to his resume.
On its surface, it would appear that Daniels does not have enough of a sample size to be evaluated by NFL scouts. However, this is not exactly the case. Look at some of his peers in this upcoming draft class.
- JT Daniels, UGA: 15 starts
- Justin Fields, Ohio State: 15 starts
- Trey Lance, North Dakota State: 16 starts
- Zach Wilson, BYU: 27 starts
- Kyle Trask, Florida: 21 starts
- Mac Jones, Alabama: 14 starts
*Trevor Lawrence had 11 starts under his belt after his freshman season, and at the start of this year, he had 26 starts.
For reference, let's take a look back at the number of starts some other first-round draft picks have had in recent years:
- Kyler Murray, Oklahoma: 18 starts
- Dwayne Haskins, Ohio State: 14 starts
- Sam Darnold, USC: 24 starts
- Mitchell Trubisky, North Carolina: 13 starts
- Cam Newton, Auburn: 14 starts
This illustrates the point: the sample size Daniels has put forward is enough to declare for the NFL Draft. Some of the players on the above list have played well in the NFL, while others have not. The same can be said about the 2021 quarterback class, which is why drafting Daniels becomes enticing.
The NFL Draft is a balancing act between the ceiling of a player and his floor. No one wants to take a solid college quarterback with a limited upside, but too many risks can't be taken by general managers. The point of playing football at the professional level is to win the Super Bowl, and without a quarterback that can make dynamic plays by himself, a team is not going to be able to do that. And while we don't know Daniels' future, it is safe to assume that he possesses one of the highest ceilings in this draft class if he chooses to enter.
When putting ourselves into Daniels' shoes, it's easy to understand the insight behind possibly declaring: he already tore his ACL once. It cost him a year and took away a starting position at USC. He could come back and pledge his allegiance to Georgia, where he will have started at most fives games at the season's end. Or he could opt to declare for the draft and possibly make millions immediately.
From an NFL draft scout's position, Daniels is enticing, to say the least. He has displayed the necessary arm traits to lead a franchise and has possibly the strongest arm in the draft. Daniels has also shown the willingness and ability to work and improve his mechanics, which has improved his accuracy down the field.
There's an argument that it's a loaded draft class, but there's an unusual amount of teams that could draft a quarterback.
- New York Jets
- Jacksonville Jaguars
- Carolina Panthers
- Detroit Lions*
- Atlanta Falcons*
- San Francisco 49ers
- Chicago Bears
- New England Patriots
- Washington Football Team
- Indianapolis Colts*
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers*
- New Orleans Saints*
- Pittsburgh Steelers*
*The Bucs, Saints, Colts, Falcons, Lions, and Steelers have established quarterbacks, but they are all aging at this point.
A team could opt to take him at the end of the first round, as the Green Bay Packers did last year with Utah State quarterback Jordan Love. They could also let him fall into Day 2 and select him with their second- or third-round draft pick. Many starters around the league were Day-2 picks, so there is a consistent track record with success in that round.
Daniels could have a hard time early in his career if he is asked to do too much too soon. However, a team could allow him sit and learn the system, how to be a professional, how to control a huddle, how to come off a loss and how to win. He has all the traits wanted in a franchise player: arm strength, gradual improvement, the want-to-win mentality and ability to interact with the media.
Head coach Kirby Smart and the offensive staff will no doubt be in Daniels' ear trying to encourage him to return to the university and over the next months, he will be tasked with the most significant decision of his life. The deadline to declare for the draft is Jan. 15, after which a three-day window exists for the player to reverse his decision.
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