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NFL Draft: Jayden Daniels sets sights on surpassing Michael Vick, Lamar Jackson as greatest running QB ever

Ask any NFL fan to name the greatest running quarterbacks of all time, and Michael Vick, Lamar Jackson, Cam Newton, Randall Cunningham and Steve Young are probably some of the names you’ll hear in response. 

Jayden Daniels, if he has it his way, will not only enter that conversion, but will be regarded as the greatest running quarterback in league history when it’s all said and done. 

“[Vick] was the first, but I think Lamar’s got him now,” Daniels told CBS Sports when asked if Vick is the greatest running QB of all time. “I’m in the league now, so I’m trying to go past them.” 

Daniels’ running ability was a huge aspect of his game at LSU. Last fall, he ran for a whopping 1,134 yards and 10 touchdowns while averaging 8.4 yards per carry. Daniels ran for an incredible 234 yards and two touchdowns against Florida in a game that saw him become the first FBS player to rush for at least 200 yards and throw for 350 in the same game. 

What makes Daniels especially dangerous is his ability to take off and run at a moment’s notice. At LSU, Daniels did a lot of damage with his legs when the defense was too busy trying to stop him vertically. Daniels also got plenty of yards on designed runs, too. 

Given his desire to become the greatest running quarterback ever, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Daniels said he’d rather score on a long run than on a long pass, like the 51-yard jaunt he had last year against Florida. 

Running, though, is not what Daniels said is his greatest strength as a football player. 

“I would say my football IQ,” he said. “I pride myself on being a smart football player. Being able to eliminate what the defense isn’t doing. I kind of have two or three things in my head pre-snap. … Being able to check into runs and check protections based on leverage and stuff like that. I take pride in learning about football and knowing football at a high level.” 

Fearlessness is another one of Daniels’ strengths. He isn’t afraid to launch one over the top of a defense while giving his receiver a chance to make a big play. He also doesn’t shy away from contact, whether it’s standing tall in the pocket amid pressure or running head-first into a linebacker. 

Daniels acknowledged that NFL teams have told him they “want me to be smarter about the hits that I take.” 

“They know I’m very competitive,” Daniels said. “You want to think that you can beat that guy and get that extra five yards, or maybe if you beat him you go down the sideline for 60. 

“When to get down, when to not. There’s a balance.” 

I’d be remiss not to talk about Daniels’ ability as a passer. While he’s a prolific runner, Daniels is even better at throwing the football. At LSU, Daniels made every throw you can draw up while taking advantage of a deep receiving corps that included likely first-round picks Malik Nabers and Brian Thomas Jr. 

With all of his options, Daniels usually made the right decision with the ball. He threw 40 touchdowns against just four interceptions. 

“Being decisive,” Daniels said when asked about his quick decision-making on the football field. “That’s a big part. Knowing when to run and when not to run, it’s kind of just a feel thing throughout the game. You kind of feel how deep the defense is, where the rush lanes are, stuff that like. That just comes with playing football.”

Not many people know what Daniels is going through as a projected top-five draft pick. Fortunately for him, he has someone he can talk to in Joe Burrow, a fellow quarterback who, like Daniels, was a Heisman Trophy winner at LSU before being the No. 1 overall pick. Daniels said that the Cincinnati Bengals‘ quarterback recently gave him a few tips. 

“Really just soak everything in,” Daniels said of Burrow’s advice, “and just know that what you did in college doesn’t matter. As soon as you hear your name called, it’s time to get to work. You’ve got a clean slate. You’ve got to go out and prove yourself each and every day.”

While he doesn’t know who will draft him, Daniels shared what type of player the fans of whichever team selects him will see on Sundays. Like Jackson, Vick and other successful quarterbacks before him, Daniels is hoping to leave a lasting impact during his time in the NFL. 

“A competitor, a leader,” said Daniels, who has teamed up with Head & Shoulders and their Make Every Wash Count campaign. “Somebody that loves to have fun playing football; they’re going to see that when I’m out there playing. Somebody that has a passion for the game, that is going to work to win football games. That’s the biggest thing. 

“Winning matters, so however I can help the team win, I’m going to do it.” 

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