High on the Tigers: LSU’s Jayden Daniels, Malik Nabers and Brian Thomas Jr. all projected to have names called early in this year’s NFL Draft

LSU teammates Malik Nabers (8), Jayden Daniels (5), and Brian Thomas Jr. (11) are all projected to high in the first round of this year's NFL Draft. PHOTO BY: Jonathan Mailhes

One of the leading voices on the 2024 NFL Draft has spoken very favorably of LSU’s marquee players and the impact they’ll have on this year’s event.

Quarterback Jayden Daniels, and wide receivers Malik Nabers and Brian Thomas Jr., are all expected to be drafted in the upper tier of the first round, Kiper said,

The draft April 25 in Detroit, Michigan.

Kiper’s recent first mock draft has Daniels going No. 2 overall to the Washington Commanders, while Nabers is slotted for the New York Giants at No. 6, and Thomas to the Minnesota Vikings at No. 11.

There’s great scrutiny when it comes to the quarterback position and there’s none greater on Daniels, who after two years at LSU, was this year’s Heisman Trophy winner.

USC’s Caleb Williams is the projected No. 1 overall selection to the Chicago Bears with North Carolina’s Drake Maye set for the New England Patriots following Daniels.

“Ride that momentum,” said Kiper, ESPN’s NFL/College Draft Analyst. “Look where he is as a player right now and look at the league and what those defenses struggle against. That’s a quarterback like Jayden Daniels.”

The No. 1 wide receiver expected to come off the draft board according to Kiper is Ohio State’s Marvin Harrison Jr., winner of the Biletnikoff Award over Nabers, to the Arizona Cardinals at No. 4 followed by Georgia tight end Brock Bowers to the Los Angeles Chargers.

Nabers and Thomas were Daniels’ top two receivers during the 2023 season, also ranking among the nation’s best.

The 6-foot, 200-pound Nabers earned first team AP All-America honors and was named to the All-SEC first team with 89 receptions for 1,569 yards (17.6 yards per catch) and 14 touchdowns.

Thomas, a 6-4, 205-pound native of Walker, was named third team AP All-American and second team All-SEC. He hauled in 68 catches for 1,177 yards (17.3 yards per catch) and led the nation with 17 touchdowns.

They had the nation’s leader in Daniels throwing passes to them, orchestrating the nation’s top-rated offense in points scored (45.5) and total offense (543.5).

The 6-4, 210-pound Daniels, who spent the first three years of his career at Arizona State, became the only player in FBS history to pass for 12,000 (12,749) yards and rush for 3,000 yards (3,307) in a career. He accounted for 412.2 total yards per game and 50 total TDs – the most in the FBS – in 2023.

Daniels had a school record 208.0 efficiency rating, completing 72.2% (236 of 327) of his passes for 40 touchdowns and only four interceptions. He also led the Tigers in rushing with 1,134 yards on 135 attempts and 10 touchdowns.

“You look at the skill set, the dual-threat capabilities and the fact that he was aggressive with his throws, aggressive running with the ball,” Kiper said. “Yet, he didn’t turn it over. That’s a tough tap dance to be able to throw 40 touchdowns with four picks only. Don’t turn it over, yet go out there and just let it rip.”

Five times Daniels was named the SEC’s Player of the Week and had the nation’s best 90 plays of 20-plus yards. Nine times he accounted for four touchdowns and in a 52-35 victory over Florida on Nov. 11, was responsible for 606 total yards (372 passing, 234 rushing) and five touchdowns.

He accounted for a career-high eight touchdowns in a 56-14 rout of Georgia State on Nov. 18.

“He did some great things at Arizona State before he came to LSU,” Kiper said. “He put on a little weight, improved in all areas to where went from a third to fifth-round type pick to a top five pick guaranteed. That dual-threat capability he has the capability that very few can do is the reason why I think he can go No. 2.”

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