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Lazar's Pro Day Tour: Inside Jayden Daniels's Workout and Other Notable Patriots Takeaways From LSU's Pro Day

With the first stop on Patriots.com's Pro Day tour, reigning Heisman Trophy winner Jayden Daniels worked out for NFL scouts at LSU on Wednesday. 

LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels (5) goes through passing drills during LSU's NCAA football pro day.
LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels (5) goes through passing drills during LSU's NCAA football pro day.

Baton Rouge, LA — With less than a month until the 2024 NFL Draft, Pro Days are a major in-person exposure to the prospects who are in the first-round conversation for the Patriots.

For some, non-padded workouts without any opposition lined up across from players are overrated. How much real football application do drills against air have when evaluating players? These workouts are more about confirming the tape and face time with top decision-makers. If the draft is like building a house, Pro Days are like the finishes, while the film is the foundation. There's also a personal element to understanding how players are wired and what motivates them to be great at the next level.

As a substantial decision looms for the Patriots with the third overall draft pick next month, New England sent nine staffers to evaluate quarterback Jayden Daniels and his top receivers Malik Nabers and Brian Thomas Jr. in their showcase at LSU's indoor practice facility in Baton Rouge.

With head coach Jerod Mayo and director of scouting Eliot Wolf leading the charge, the Patriots were well represented with Matt Groh, Alonzo Highsmith, Patrick Stewart, Camren Williams, Alex Van Pelt, Ben McAdoo, and T.C. McCartney in attendance. Daniels confirmed reports that he'll meet privately with the Patriots brass on Wednesday night, opting to keep his Tuesday night schedule clear to focus on his Pro Day.

The Patriots scouting contingent also met with projected top-10 pick Malik Nabers, who dazzled in his Pro Day workout. Nabers ran an official 4.35-second 40-yard dash with a 42-inch vertical as the explosive wideout lived up to the first-round hype.

Here are my thoughts on Daniels's performance and more from a trip to LSU's Pro Day:

Thoughts on QB Jayden Daniels's Workout

Daniels officially weighed in at 6-foot-3, 210 pounds after opting out of measurements at the combine back in February.

The reigning Heisman Trophy winner didn't do any athletic testing in the pre-draft process as one of the most dynamic runners to enter the draft in years. Daniels's weight is likely inflated slightly from his playing weight last season, which many thought hovered around the 195-pound mark. Still, his lean, athletic physique could easily carry more weight as he bulks up in an NFL strength and conditioning program.

From a body type standpoint, Daniels looks like an NBA star as a long, trimmed athlete who will add more muscle now that he's turning pro. According to LSU head coach Brian Kelly, the number one question for teams pertains to Daniels's durability and reckless running style.

"Will he slide?" Kelly joked when asked about the NFL team's concerns with Daniels at the next level. The LSU head coach said questions seldom steer toward Daniels's ability to make throws or process defenses. Instead, it's all about self-preservation, and weighing in at 210 pounds will help quell some concerns.

The other noticeable intangible quality to Daniels's profile is how well he interacted with teammates on Wednesday. Whether it was somewhat performative or not, Daniels was highly engaged while sitting out the athletic testing portion to support his teammates. For what it's worth, it looked genuine, especially when he ran down to the other end of the field to celebrate with Nabers after his go-to receiver ran his 40-yard dash. There's a lot of love between Daniels, Nabers, and Thomas Jr. that has been palpable throughout the pre-draft process.

Furthermore, rather than wearing his own number, Daniels wore the No. 3 for teammate Greg Brooks Jr., who was diagnosed with cancer last season. Daniels seems like a high-character individual, with LSU staffers praising his humbleness and sense of humor.

As for his throwing session, Daniels threw for 20-plus minutes to all three levels of the field. He started with short and intermediate throws with five and ten-yard outs, hitches, seams, crossers, corners, and passes into the flats. He took drop-backs from under center to flex those muscles and then finished the workout by airing it out to Nabers and Thomas Jr.

Overall, there were more missed throws than you'd expect for a Pro Day from Daniels, who had five incompletions during the session where he overthrew his intended target. Mainly, he had two misses to the left sideline, which seemed like he was trying to show off his arm strength a little too much. With that said, there wasn't any reason to overreact to the workout.

Daniels's smooth, effortless throwing motion and compact release generate velocity when he drives the ball downfield. His upper body is extremely flexible, producing power with a torquing motion, which allows him to zip the ball around from different arm angles. With his natural throwing motion, Daniels can easily get the ball where it needs to go.

The throw from Daniels's session that made me say "wow" was on a deep corner route. He rolled to his right and put the ball perfectly on the sideline, roughly 40 yards downfield. It wasn't "the Pro Day throw," where he rolls to his left and throws back right. But it was still one of those passes that produced an audible sound out of this scribe's mouth.

Along with his frame, my other concern on film was whether Daniels could drive the ball outside into NFL-sized windows. After watching him throw up close, I realized that he has such a loose arm that Daniels should have more than adequate velocity when you combine his skill as a passer with the rest of the playmaking ability he'll bring to the table.

Daniels has the physical tools and swagger of a franchise quarterback who would be a homerun selection for the Patriots at the top of the draft.

LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels, right, and wide receiver Malik Nabers wait for their turn to speak at the podium for player interviews during LSU's NCAA football pro day.
LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels, right, and wide receiver Malik Nabers wait for their turn to speak at the podium for player interviews during LSU's NCAA football pro day.

Is WR Malik Nabers a Real Possibility for the Patriots?

With all eyes on the quarterback class, the Patriots also did their due diligence by conducting a lengthy meeting with Nabers, per reports.

Nabers, who was electric on Wednesday, would make sense for the Patriots in a trade-down scenario where they accumulate picks and draft the best offensive player available. After posting a 4.35-second 40-yard dash with a 42-inch vertical jump, Nabers displayed elite speed and dynamic route-running ability during the on-field workouts.

Last spring, I attended Boston College's Pro Day to take in Zay Flowers's workout, a draft crush of mine in 2023. I love Zay, and he had a good rookie year in Baltimore, but Nabers was on a different level. Nabers looks like he's constantly running downhill with an aggressiveness to chase down the ball wherever the landmark is on the field. He was ridiculously explosive.

However, it's hard to envision a world where Nabers ends up on the Patriots. Sure, they could trade down slightly, let's say with the Giants at No. 6, to hand New York a quarterback while the Pats select Nabers at six with an added warchest of picks. But that's a long and windy road back to contention.

There's also no hope of pulling a Houston Texas to pair Daniels with Nabers in the NFL. Remember, Houston had two first-round picks, trading up from No. 12 to No. 3 last year. The Patriots would be trading up from No. 34 to the top 10 to select Nabers – it's not happening.

Although it's also unlikely, Thomas Jr. could be a trade-up target if he slides into the late first round. BTJ wasn't as impressive as Nabers, but he's a bigger wideout with similar long speed. He also made arguably the best catch of the day with a fingertip grab on a go route.

The LSU receiver duo lived up to the hype with Nabers being a top-10 lock and Thomas Jr. a sure-fire first-rounder. My lord was Nabers good. Sorry, not sorry for the gushing. As fun as it would be to draft the QB and his top receiver in college, it's a pipe dream for New England.

Other Standouts From LSU's Highly-Attended Pro Day

For all 32 NFL teams and 120-plus credentialed media, Daniels and his first-round receivers were the main event at LSU on Wednesday. However, there were a slew of other participants.

The two players who also stood out from this perspective were DT Jordan Jefferson and LB Omar Speights. Jefferson, a projected day-three pick, ran an official 5.10 40-yard dash at 6-3, 316 pounds. Jefferson is a play disruptor who fires off the ball into the backfield to throw off the timing of run plays and make splash plays in the backfield.

As for Speights, many project him as a late day-three or even undrafted free agent target. However, at 225 pounds, Speights moved well during positional drills in coverage. He has the thickness of a modern linebacker with the movement skills of a safety – a Pats-like hybrid.

Like always, LSU had plenty of NFL-caliber talent to showcase with 14 participants in their Pro Day. Jefferson, Speights, and fellow DL Maason Smith were among the other standouts.

Next on the Pro Day Tour: North Carolina

After meeting with Daniels following his Pro Day, the Patriots brass will travel roughly 900 miles northeast to Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and we'll follow them there as well.

The Patriots football ops and Patriots.com are heading to the University of North Carolina for quarterback Drake Maye's Pro Day on Thursday. It'll be great to compare these two quarterbacks side-by-side, with Maye expected to dazzle scouts in his throwing session.

We'll have full coverage from Chapel Hill on Patriots.com, with Maye expected to throw around 3 p.m. ET.

DISCLAIMER: The views and thoughts expressed in this article are those of the writer and don't necessarily reflect those of the organization. Read Full Disclaimer

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