Jayden Daniels Could Be An Explosive Fantasy Football Option With the Commanders

May 07, 2024
Jayden Daniels Could Be An Explosive Fantasy Option With the Commanders

With the second overall selection of the NFL Draft, the Washington Commanders grabbed their quarterback of the future, Jayden Daniels. A dynamic rusher with a huge arm, Daniels provides an upgrade for incumbents Terry McLaurin and Jahan Dotson. The 2024 draft class also brings Luke McCaffrey and tight end Ben Sinnott. His mix of playmaking ability with both his legs and arm makes him an intriguing fantasy piece in his rookie year and beyond.

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Jayden Daniels’ Prospect Profile

When Jayden Daniels entered the 2019 recruiting class, he was a standout four-star recruit, earning the title of the country's No. 2 “dual-threat” quarterback. His talent was immediately evident as he started all 12 games for the Arizona State Sun Devils, making history as the first true freshman to start a season opener. His dual-threat ability was further honed when he transferred to LSU prior to the 2022 season, propelling him to an elite level.

Over his two years in Baton Rouge, Daniels led all FBS quarterbacks in rushing twice, threw for 57 touchdowns (to only seven interceptions), and received a slew of awards, namely, the Heisman Trophy in ‘23.

Jayden Daniels 2023 LSU Stats, Draft Class Rank
Yards Per Att. Adjusted Comp. % aDOT Turnover-Worthy Play Rate Big-Time Throw Rate* Rushing Yards
11.5 (1st) 79.6 (4th) 10.5 (13th) 1.6% (2nd) 8.4% (1st) 1,250 (1st)

*Via PFF: Big Time Throws - a pass with excellent ball location and timing, generally thrown further down the field and/or into a tighter window

Daniels consistently tested defenses down the field and with his legs, accounting for 90 plays of 20+ yards last season while leading draft-eligible quarterbacks with a 69.1% adjusted completion rate on passes 20+ yards down the field. This comes from his big arm and next-level pocket movement that allowed his receivers to work their way deep down the field.

Thanks to the quarterback’s propensity for the long ball, his receivers consistently capitalized, including Brian Thomas Jr.’s class-leading nine touchdowns with 25+ air yards. (You can read his full write-up here.)

When Daniels was asked to create independently, he was more than capable. He accrued 512 yards and six touchdowns on QB draws and QB-designed runs, but the dagger came when he could escape the pocket on passing plays. That was never more evident than in LSU’s matchup against a stout Alabama defense last season when he ran for 163 yards and six first downs.

Daniels was more than willing to take a hit in the pocket to deliver the ball and seems even more willing to take a hit to finish a run. Which isn’t always a good thing. Many scouts have labeled his running style as “reckless” at times, including Doug Farrar’s very apt comparison to Wile E. Coyote. This is something that Kliff Kingsbury will likely want to work on at the next level. Still, luckily, for fantasy purposes, Kingsbury has proven he can squeeze fantasy goodness out of rushing quarterbacks in the NFL.

What To Expect from Jayden Daniels and the Commanders Offense in 2024

Despite GM Adam Peters or head coach Dan Quinn's unwillingness to name their No. 2 overall selection the immediate starter in Washington, it would take nothing short of a catastrophe for the team to turn to Marcus Mariota or Jeff Driskel in Week 1. Daniels has been a starting quarterback since his freshman year of 2019 and will be 24 years old by season’s end. This is an entirely new playbook and offensive coaching staff, with no veteran on board that should have a leg-up over Daniels for starting possibilities.

Being given the keys to the car right off the bat won’t always yield fantasy success —look at Bryce Young’s rookie season last year— but the Commanders have a fairly good infrastructure to invite Daniels into, unlike what the Panthers had last season. Out of 19 qualifying pass-catchers between the Commanders and Panthers last season, only Adam Thielen (0.35) and D.J. Chark (0.35) had positive EPA per target, while Washington had five such wide receivers and one running back (Brian Robinson, 0.39).

Being “better than Bryce Young in fantasy” isn’t exactly the threshold we’re trying to beat here, but there have been far worse situations we’ve seen rookies in, including Drake Maye landing in New England. Terry McLaurin and Jahan Dotson make for a legitimate 2WR set, with Zach Ertz and rookie Ben Sinnott combining as a perfectly capable tight end duo. Fellow rookie Luke McCaffrey should grow into a nice slot option, while Austin Ekeler will look to bounce back into one of the best pass-catching backs in the league after an injury-laden 2023.

Someone who is likely not helped in a fantasy sense is running back Brian Robinson. After the quarterback rushed for 21 touchdowns in his two seasons at LSU, Robinson will have to compete at the goal line with both Ekeler and Daniels. His ceiling gets capped, making him a fringe RB2/3, while Ekeler should be considered an RB3/4, at least until we see he is unhampered by his lower-body injuries.

The team will likely lean on Ertz at the beginning of the year, but Sinnott will likely become a streaming option early in the season.

As the main boundary receiver and the only Washington pass-catching option to break 1,000 yards since the 2016 season (!!), McLaurin should be the biggest beneficiary of Daniels’ deep ball. Though Kliff Kingsbury got plenty of flak for his “Horizontal Raid” offense during his time with Arizona, the team finished in the top 10 in pass attempts that traveled 20+ air yards down the field in 2021 and 2022. McLaurin has averaged 29 such targets over the last three seasons and finished with the seventh-most in 2023. He should be viewed as a locked-in WR3 with an upside for splash weeks with the quarterback upgrade.

Bottom Line

  • The Commanders were one of the best landing spots among the Quarterback-Needy teams, and Jayden Daniels has a nice infrastructure of pass-catchers and an improving offensive line.
  • Daniels has some work to do at the next level, including working through his reads and sliding from time to time (please), but it shouldn’t take long for him to be putting up crooked numbers in the fantasy box score.
  • There aren’t many fantasy values among the Commanders' skill position players at the moment, but Terry McLaurin is the closest thing to a sure bet as a WR3. Brian Robinson will still be the team’s No. 1 RB, but Daniels’ legs somewhat cap his ceiling.
  • According to current Underdog best ball ADP, Daniels is coming off the board as the QB14 near the top of the 10th round. This feels like a perfectly reasonable price, and he will be a draft target if he’s going that late in redraft leagues later in the summer.
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