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We are onto school number three for JT Daniels. The former five-star quarterback told ESPN on Wednesday that he will be transferring to West Virginia after losing his starting job to Stetson Bennett at Georgia. This is already the second time that Daniels has transferred, arriving in Athens after two years at USC. His college career has been nothing shy of a rollercoaster ride.
Unfortunately for Daniels, injuries have plagued his career. He suffered a torn ACL in his sophomore year at USC, which led to Kedon Slovis taking over the starting job. Slovis had a phenomenal freshman season, prompting Daniels to head to Georgia. The NCAA granted him permission to play immediately following his transfer in the summer of 2020, paving the way for him to compete with Jamie Newman, Bennett and D’Wan Mathis for the starting job. Newman ultimately ended up opting out of the 2020 season.
Perhaps we should have known right away that Daniels was not going to be the guy in Athens. He finished third in that quarterback competition. Mathis was the Week 1 starter, but quickly lost his job to Bennett. Daniels became the backup to Bennett. He only took over when Bennett suffered an injury in November. He looked sharp in the team’s final four games, winning the starting job for the remainder of the season. He completed just over 66 percent of his passes and averaged over 300 yards passing per game.
That set the stage for a big 2021 season. Daniels entered the year as a Heisman front runner and the presumed starter. Once again injuries got in the way as he missed extended time and ultimately lost his starting job even when he was healthy enough to return. Bennett went on to lead Georgia to a national championship, with Daniels playing sparingly in relief throughout the final stretch of the season.
At this point, it is hard to know what to make of Daniels. He clearly still has some talent. Over his two seasons at Georgia he put up solid numbers. He completed 69 percent of his passes to go with 17 touchdowns and five interceptions across nine appearances. Daniels has prototypical NFL size, standing 6’3″, 210 pounds. He has an above average arm with decent velocity on his throws. I was particularly impressed with his quick release. There are some nice anticipation throws on his tape as well. While he is not a great athlete for the position, he can move around in the pocket and make throws on the run. His deep ball isn’t always perfect, but when it is on, it looks great.
However, Daniels will need to show a number of things this year in order to prove to NFL teams that he deserves a shot at the next level. His ball placement is a bit inconsistent, especially when throwing to the boundary. His footwork also needs to be cleaned up. There are several throws where his feet are a mess and it impacts the trajectory of the throw, frequently leaving the ball short of where he should be leading the receiver. His throwing motion also gets a bit funky at times. Above all else, he will need to show that he can stay healthy. Perhaps adding a few pounds to his frame will help prepare for the physical nature of the NFL.
Some people may be questioning why West Virginia of all schools. Well for one, his former offensive coordinator at USC, Graham Harrell, is the offensive coordinator for the Mountaineers now. Having some familiarity with the offensive scheme was likely appealing to Daniels. They also have a veteran group returning for 2022 on offense. Beyond that, he simply did not have many other suitors. The other schools he visited were Missouri and Oregon State.
Without a doubt, there is a lot of work to be done in order for Daniels to rehab his draft stock. For a frame of reference, I think Daniels would probably be a late-round pick or priority undrafted free-agent in this quarterback class at best. This is one of the weakest quarterback classes in recent memory, but he would likely be the eight or ninth quarterback selected. There are just too many unknowns about him right now.
Heading into 2023, he will certainly not be in contention to be the first quarterback taken. With Bryce Young, CJ Stroud and possibly Tyler Van Dyke all in the mix to be top-10 selections, it is hard to see Daniels coming anywhere close to that group. That being said, if Daniels can simply stay on the field and post similar numbers to his time in Georgia, he will be drafted. Probably not in the first round given his injury history. It is obviously way too early to say, but I think Daniels will still have a really good shot of making the jump to the NFL.
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