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Commanders select LSU QB Jayden Daniels with No. 2 overall pick in 2024 NFL Draft

A new era in D.C. brings a new franchise signal-caller.

The Washington Commanders selected LSU product Jayden Daniels at No. 2 overall in the 2024 NFL Draft -- the inaugural draft pick of the Josh Harris era and the first big move of the Adam Peters-Dan Quinn partnership -- on Thursday in Detroit.

After trading away last year's starter Sam Howell and signing backup QB Marcus Mariota this offseason, it was clear the Commanders would take a quarterback at No. 2. The question was, which one would they land?

The new brass settled on the 2023 Heisman Trophy Winner.

"Man, it just starts with, I'm just coming to compete. I'm coming in and really just trying to play my role whatever that is," Daniels said in his post-draft press conference. "I just want to be the best teammate to help the team win and we can bring back some victories back to D.C., to the DMV and have some fun."

An electric playmaker, Daniels can divebomb a defense through the air and knife his way for a massive gain on the ground. The 6-foot-4 quarterback is an explosive-play maven whose college tape feels like one giant highlight reel.

After three seasons as a starter at Arizona State, Daniels transferred to LSU in 2022, where his star shot to the moon, showing trait development that portends continued growth in the NFL. The 23-year-old authored a prolific college career, throwing for 12,749 passing yards and 89 passing touchdowns against 20 interceptions and adding 3,307 rushing yards and 34 ground scores in 55 games over five seasons.

Playing alongside two eventual first-round receivers -- Malik Nabers and Brian Thomas Jr. -- Daniels lit up the SEC in 2023, throwing for 3,812 yards and 40 TDs with just four INTs and adding 1,134 rushing yards and 10 scamper scores en route to the Heisman Trophy. The QB made big plays look routine, tossing gorgeous field-stretching passes and taking chunks out of the defense.

A field general, Daniels can scan the progression and find the right answer for any defense. His quick release allows him to get the ball out lightning-fast when he decides to pull the trigger. While he might not boast the biggest arm or top velocity among his class, Daniels can make every throw necessary.

The QB's dynamic ability hits new heights in the ground game. His ability to wiggle out of the pocket and gash defenses with his legs sets Daniels apart. In a league where mobile quarterbacks -- from Patrick Mahomes to Lamar Jackson, Josh Allen and Jalen Hurts -- scare the pants off defensive coordinators when the pocket breaks down, Daniels fits right in.

Daniels' biggest concern entering the NFL is his ability to protect himself on the move, where he was involved in some massive collisions in college. With a lean frame, he needs to know when to get down and avoid those big hits. The QB was more productive as a passer on designed rollouts than scramble drills, often eschewing the option to pass in favor of the run when pressured. The lack of a giant arm also leads to overthrows at times, where he can miss high.

Daniels enters the NFL with as much upside as any quarterback in this class, providing game-changing talent with his arm and legs.

Much like their counterpart from Chicago atop the 2024 NFL Draft, Washington is hoping to finally end the quarterback turnstile that has plagued the organization for years. Following the Robert Griffin III/ Kirk Cousins years, there's been a dizzying cycle of new QBs in D.C. Since 2018, the Commanders have had 12 quarterbacks start a game -- Alex Smith, Josh Johnson, Colt McCoy, Mark Sanchez, Case Keenum, the late Dwayne Haskins, Kyle Allen, Taylor Heinicke, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Garrett Gilbert, Carson Wentz and Howell.

Now, Daniels takes command to kick off a new era in DC. With only Mariota -- who has struggled in game action the past two seasons -- as his competition, Daniels has a nearly clear path to the starting gig in Week 1.

Washington boasts the pieces to make Daniels' transition easier. Terry McLaurin is a legit No. 1 wideout who can win at all three levels and should become the rookie's best friend. Jahan Dotson didn't burst out in Year 2 as the club hoped, but he is an excellent complement to McLaurin and a weapon in the red zone. The offseason additions of veteran Zach Ertz and Austin Ekeler help round out an offense that -- on paper -- could be fun to watch if the offensive line upgrades in free agency coalesce.

"I'm excited. I'm excited to come in and get to work. I know Jahan previously just, you know, we're kind of around the same age. Obviously, what Terry has done at the next level. You got a great running back in (RB) Brian Robinson. You know, Austin Ekeler, those guys are very explosive players. New additions with Zach Ertz," Daniels said. "I'm just happy to come in and learn how to be a pro. I'm excited to get to work. I'm excited to meet my new teammates."

At LSU, Daniel starred in former offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock's spread system that stretched the field. The traits he showed in that attack should fit splendidly with Commanders offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury. Daniels' splash-play ability fits nicely with Kingsbury's style, and his elusive running skills should open things up for the offense, as Kyler Murray did in Arizona.

To kick off a new reign, the Commanders found their face of the future, a dynamic dual-threat force with thrilling skills and the upside to develop into the most fearsome player in the draft if he hits his ceiling.

"I'm very confident. Obviously, it's a new regime there and, you know, I'm excited just to come in and really just change the culture and help the team win in each and every way that I can," Daniels said. "Come in, work hard and we'll see where the course takes itself."

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