LSU’s Heisman winner Daniels declares for NFL Draft

LSU’s Heisman winner Daniels declares for NFL Draft

LSU star quarterback Jayden Daniels, the 2023 Heisman Trophy winner, has declared for the NFL Draft and will opt out of the Tigers’ New Year’s Day showdown against Wisconsin at the ReliaQuest Bowl in Tampa.

Daniels had a spectacular campaign, completing 72.2 percent of his passes for 3,812 yards with an incredible 40/4 touchdown-to-interception ratio. He also had 1,134 rushing yards, 10 TDs and a ridiculous 8.4 yards-per-carry average.

Daniels led LSU to a 9-3 straight-up record and an 8-4 against-the-spread mark. The Tigers won six of their last seven games by double-digit margins, with their only loss coming at Alabama (42-28) when Daniels had to leave the game with an injury early in the fourth quarter.

LSU’s two other losses this year came vs. Florida State (45-24) in Orlando and at Ole Miss (55-49).

After transferring from Arizona St. to LSU before the 2022 season, Daniels led Brian Kelly’s first team in Baton Rouge to an SEC West title. He connected on 68.6 percent of his throws for 2,913 yards with a 17/3 TD-INT ratio. The dual-threat signal caller also had 885 rushing yards, 11 TDs and a 4.8 YPC average.

For his career that included three years as ASU’s starting QB from 2019-21, Daniels completed 66.3 percent of his passes for 12,749 yards with a fantastic 89/20 TD-INT ratio. He also produced 3,307 career rushing yards, 34 TDs and a 5.4 YPC average.

In 2023, Daniels won the Heisman, the Davey O’Brien Award, the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, the AP Player of the Year, the SEC Offensive Player of the Year and the Walter Camp Player of the Year. He was the nation’s leader in TD passes and Passing Yards Per Attempt (11.7), and he led the SEC and was third in the country in passing yards.

Daniels is sixth in NCAA history in career yards from scrimmage (16,057) and 23rd in career TDs (124).

The announcement from Daniels prompted most books to move LSU from -8 or -8.5 to -7. The total has moved down to 54 points at the Westgate SuperBook, although most other shops were at 55 as of Monday afternoon.

The ‘over’ went 11-1 for LSU this year, with the lone ‘under’ appearance coming in the Tigers’ 56-14 home win over Ga. St. when the total closed at 75 points.

In Mel Kiper Jr.’s most recent mock draft published at ESPN.com, Daniels was the fourth overall pick in Round 1 of the 2024 NFL Draft.

QB Garrett Nussmeier will get the starting nod for LSU against the Badgers, who finished the regular season 7-5 SU and 4-6-2 ATS.

In five appearances this year, Nussmeier completed 17-of-33 passes (51.5%) for 196 yards and one TD without an interception.

The third-year sophomore has played in 16 career games, completing 98-of-174 throws (56.3%) for 1,325 yards with an 8/6 TD-INT ratio. Nussmeier has one career rushing TD.

In the second half of LSU’s 50-30 loss vs. Georgia in the 2022 SEC Championship Game, Nussmeier replaced an injured Daniels and threw for 294 yards and two TDs. Then in a 63-7 win over Purdue at the Citrus Bowl, Nussmeier completed 11-of-15 passes for 173 yards and two TDs.

I like LSU -7 in this matchup with Wisconsin, which was one of the nation’s biggest disappointments in the first year of Luke Fickell’s tenure. However, there’s still a strong possibility that the Tigers could have more opt-outs coming soon, so I think it’s a good idea to wait it out.

If/when LSU WRs Malik Nabers and Brian Thomas Jr. (and DT Maason Smith?) opt out (both WRs are first-round picks in Kiper’s latest mock draft), the line might move to 6.5 or even six.