Heisman Winner’s Future
By DAVID UBBEN and DANE BRUGLER David Ubben is a senior college football writer for The Athletic. Dane Brugler covers the N.F.L. draft.
N.F.L. scouts say that Louisiana State’s Jayden Daniels has the passing and running skills to become a starting quarterback on the next level.
Jayden Daniels won the 2023 Heisman Trophy on Saturday, becoming the second Louisiana State quarterback in five seasons to claim the honor.
Daniels — who on Friday won the Walter Camp Player of the Year Award and the Davey O’Brien Award for the nation’s best quarterback — beat out his fellow finalists, Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr., Oregon quarterback Bo Nix and Ohio State wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr., for the Heisman.
Daniels tallied 3,812 passing yards and threw for 40 touchdowns for L.S.U. He added 1,134 yards on the ground and 10 rushing touchdowns.
One of the criticisms facing Daniels in his first three college seasons at Arizona State was a lack of improvement. But from Year 1 to Year 2 at L.S.U., he made a leap into the stratosphere. Daniels led the nation in quarterback rating by more than 21 points, tied for the most touchdown passes, and led the nation in yards per attempt (11.7) by more than a full yard. Nobody was more productive than Daniels, and the Tigers needed it with a defense that ranked outside the top 100.
L.S.U. became the 12th school with at least three Heisman winners. Quarterback Joe Burrow won in 2019, and halfback Billy Cannon in 1959.
N.F.L. Draft Projections For the Heisman Finalists
Daniels’s skills excite scouts.
In the eyes of the N.F.L., no college prospect helped himself more significantly this season than Daniels did. And the Heisman Trophy feels like the cherry on top. His dual-threat skills and ability to create explosive plays are traits that have N.F.L. scouts excited (he accounted for an astounding 90 plays of 20-plus yards in 2023). His continued improvements in his decisionmaking and processing have N.F.L. evaluators thinking he can be an impactful starter at the next level. Over the past 15 years, 10 Heisman winners were also top-10 picks in the N.F.L. draft, and there might be two more in April with Caleb Williams, the 2022 Heisman winner, and Daniels.
Penix’s season won’t go unnoticed.
Despite his up-and-down moments throughout the season, Penix was at his best when it mattered the most, which won’t go overlooked throughout the evaluation process. He already put together a strong N.F.L. résumé and can add to it that he is the only Heisman finalist who helped his team to an undefeated record (so far) in 2023 and a spot in the College Football Playoff. Viewed as a Day 2 draft pick by N.F.L. teams, Penix has a few things working against him as a prospect, but scouts have a “bet against him at your own risk” type of attitude toward his next level projection.
Nix is projected to be Day 2 pick.
After his tumultuous three seasons at Auburn, Nix forced fans and scouts to re-evaluate their prior opinions with what he accomplished at Oregon. While the Ducks’ offense was tailored to his strengths, Nix always knew where to go with the football and was at his best throwing on the move or creating secondchance plays with his athleticism. Scouts wonder if he can be the type of creator in the N.F.L. that he was in college, but Nix has the talent to be a pro starter and is projected to come off the board somewhere on Day 2.
Harrison could go in the top three.
Harrison didn’t finish No. 1 in any major receiving categories, but his inclusion as a Heisman finalist felt like a recognition by voters that they were watching one of the best players in the country every time he took the field. Harrison was incredibly productive in 2023 as one of only three F.B.S. receivers to reach 1,200 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns (with average quarterback play). But his remarkable talent truly separated him among all non-quarterbacks, and that talent is why he is a projected top-three draft pick in April. He may be one of the best wide receiver prospects in 15 years.
New York Times