ESPN’s Todd McShay has released his way-too-early 1st round projections for the 2022 draft, and he is expecting another deep quarterback class next year. McShay has five quarterbacks going in the first round in next year’s draft, and Georgia QB JT Daniels isn’t one of them.
To understand the lack of buzz for JT Daniels in the early discussions of next year’s draft, you have to go back to his time as a recruit. Daniels was one of the highest-rated quarterback prospects in 2018, rated as the third-best quarterback after Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields, two players that just went in the first round of this year’s draft.
He won the starting quarterback job as a freshman at USC, and although he wasn’t breaking school records, he exceeded expectations for a freshman starting quarterback. He looked poised to take the PAC-12 by storm as a sophomore, and his path to a future first-round draft pick was wide open.
Unfortunately for Daniels, the road ahead wouldn’t be so smooth, and he would suffer a severe leg injury during the first game of the 2019 season. This injury would keep him out of the rest of the 2019 season and opened the door for freshman Kedon Slovis to step in the starting job. Following a solid first year for Slovis and a change in the offensive coaching staff, Daniels was looking at a backup role whenever he was cleared to return to the field. Knowing he was unlikely to achieve his NFL dreams if he stayed at USC, Daniels entered his name in the transfer portal. He would transfer to Georgia that summer.
Transferring into a new program always requires an adjustment period, and the pandemic made that adjustment even harder last year. The inability to have in-person meetings for much of the off-season impacted players’ ability to learn a new system and develop rapport with teammates. In addition, Daniels’ injury recovery would stretch into the season, preventing him from starting until Georgia’s late November game against Mississippi St.
The long road back to the field was worth it as Daniels threw for ten touchdowns and 1231 yards in the last four games of the Dawgs’ season. The explosiveness he brought to the Georgia offense was something Dawg fans had been waiting all year to see. Looking ahead to this year, Georgia returns almost all of its offensive weapons from a year ago and adds a bevy of talented young players alongside them. If the combination of the talent around him and a normal offseason can help JT Daniels take the next step, it is almost impossible that he won’t be considered one of the top quarterbacks in the 2022 draft.
After an injury and a transfer, it is unclear how much stock draft scouts are putting into each part of Daniels’ career: the four games Daniels played at Georgia, the 2018 season as a freshman at USC, and the talent he displayed throughout each. If Daniels can maintain the same level of production that he had last year, he will quickly climb into first-round draft boards. After all, two of the top quarterbacks taken in the first round of this year’s draft were complete unknowns before the season.