NFL draft: After Caleb Williams, is Jayden Daniels or Drake Maye the next quarterback?

Here’s the fourth story of our position-by-position NFL draft series. Today, we’ll look at the top quarterbacks.

USC quarterback Caleb Williams appears to be the consensus No. 1 overall pick for the coming NFL draft, which will be held April 25-27 in Detroit.

The drama will start with the second overall pick, which is held by the Commanders. Will they go with LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels or North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye?

“It’s a good quarterback draft,” NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah said. “Caleb is the top guy.”

New Washington general manager Adam Peters will be on the spot to make the right decision. The Commanders parted ways with Sam Howell over the offseason to make room for Daniels or Maye. New England picks third.

“I think you learn more and more every time you do it,” said Peters, who started his career as a scout with New England in 2003 and worked with former Falcons executives Thomas Dimitroff and Scott Pioli. “And most of them are mistakes. I feel like it’s really hard to evaluate quarterbacks, but you just try to get better and try to understand what you did the last time that was really good and what you did last time that was really bad.”

Peters was with the 49ers when they selected Trey Lance with the third overall pick in 2021. He’s since been traded. The 49ers also drafted Brock Purdy with the last pick (262nd) in the 2022 draft.

“Different processes, hopefully there’s not a whole lot of bad things that you did, but you always learn,” Peters said. “And so it’s constantly evolving and I don’t think anybody has the magic pill to understand that one. If they do let me know, I’ll hire ‘em.”

Williams started his career at Oklahoma in 2021. He transferred to USC when coach Lincoln Riley took the job in Los Angeles. Williams won the Heisman Trophy for the 2022 season and went 8-5 in 2023.

In his three seasons, Williams completed 735 of 1,099 passes for 10,082 yards, 93 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. He finished with a passer rating of 169.3.

He has dazzling arm talent that might just help him early in his career as he figures out the NFL game and how to read defenses better.

Chicago has been a graveyard for other quarterbacks taken high in the draft. The franchisestill is trying to rebound from taking Mitchell Trubisky with the second overall ahead of Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes in the 2017 draft.

The Bears, who also have the ninth overall pick in the draft, moved on from Justin Fields, who was taken 11th overall in the 2021 draft. He was traded to the Steelers this offseason.

Daniels, who’s 6-4 and 210 pounds, won the Heisman Trophy last season after passing for 3,812 yards and 40 touchdown passes and rushing for another 1,134 and 10 touchdowns.

Daniels attributed his improvement to coach Brian Kelly’s style of practice.

“It’s just the preparation,” Daniels said. “What coach Kelly did at practice, he put us in different situations to prepare us for the game. So, when the game came, it tended to be easier.”

Daniels started his career at Arizona State.

“I would just say my growth overall as a person,” Daniels said. “Not even as a football player, but an overall human being. From 2018 to finishing my last game in 2022. It’s been a long journey, but just my growth as a person.”

Maye, who’s 6-4 and 229 pounds, led the Tar Heels to an 8-4 mark last season. He passed for 3,608 yards, 24 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He also rushed for 449 yards and nine touchdowns.

“I think (we had) one of the most explosive offenses in the country,” Maye said. “(We) started off 6-0 and it was kind of one of those things where some games where I could have made some more plays at the end to win some more games.”

Maye, who didn’t play in the bowl game as the Tar Heels finished 8-5 overall, took those losses as learning experiences.

”I had some big-time offensive games,” Maye said. “At the end of the day, shoot, just go back out there and take it one play at a time and have confidence in myself.”

Maye has been working on his mechanics.

“I know in talking to his quarterback coach, David Morris, who does a really good job, I thought there were times this year compared to last year where he got a little elongated, a little long with his delivery.” Jeremiah said. “I know they’ve been working on that.”

The interview process has been key for Maye. He has to explain his up-and-down performances, which include two losses to Georgia Tech when they were heavily favored in 2022 and 2023.

“I think it will be helpful for him to explain some things, because when I watch the tape I have questions of just, man, he gets a lot of unblocked pressures, and there doesn’t seem to be answers,” Jeremiah said. “Whether that’s a hot route, whether that’s in terms of what they’re doing protection-wise to help him out.”

Physically, there are no issues with Maye.

“The ability, the size, the arm strength, the athleticism, the playmaking stuff, it’s all there,” Jeremiah said.

The next tier of quarterbacks includes Washington’s MIchael Penix Jr., Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy and Oregon’s Bo Nix.

Some believe that McCarthy is the fourth quarterback.

“He will manage the game and get them through it and make a couple of plays here and there,” Jeremiah said. “When you dig into the tape and really watch it and watch on third downs where they (try) to throw the ball and they do put the ball in his hands, you know, there’s a lot to like with him.”

Over the past two seasons, McCarthy started 29 games at Michigan and won 28.

He has a really, really quick mind,” Jeremiah said. “He has a quick release. Just everything he does is real smooth. I wrote in my notes that he never gets bored with completions. Some other guys in his class get in trouble big-play hunting.”

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter

The quarterback is expected to be the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft in April.


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QUARTERBACKS -- After Caleb Williams, is Jayden Daniels or Drake Maye the next quarterback? | Top 10 QBs







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