Finding the Future Part 5: JT Daniels

Nov 21, 2020; Athens, Georgia, USA; Georgia Bulldogs quarterback JT Daniels (18) throws a touchdown pass against the Mississippi State Bulldogs during the first half at Sanford Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome everyone to the final part of my search for the next Steelers franchise QB. For our final prospect, we are taking a look at one of the harder players to evaluate due to injury and lack of recent film: Georgia QB JT Daniels. I have seen him mocked as high as 1st overall and as low as barely being a top 10 player at his position. I can’t say I am surprised after watching him in his limited snaps so far at Georgia, but let’s break it down.

JT Daniels, QB Georgia: 1,231 yards, 10 touchdowns in 4 starts

The Arm

If Daniels does become a first round pick next spring, his arm talent and aggressiveness will be the biggest reasons why. He has shown the ability to throw with good velocity to all levels of the field, off platform and under pressure. That alone gives him a lot of up-side as a passer, and he was not afraid to challenge the defense downfield in his limited snaps at Georgia. Unfortunately, his aggressiveness is also one of the things that is likely causing some analysts to rank him low. He makes ill-advised decisions on deeper throws too often and will hold the ball too long in the pocket trying to make a play, leading to a lot of unnecessary sacks and negative plays. If he can learn to be more selective with his deep shots and be more poised in the pocket, his gifts as a thrower should make him a clear 1st round candidate.

The Athlete

The biggest knock on Daniels during the next draft cycle is likely going to be his lack of athleticism. He is about as traditional of a pocket passer as you will find in next year’s crop of QB prospects, and his tape shows he is clearly not comfortable when escaping the pocket. One of the ways he overcomes that is his ability to throw while under pressure. He routinely stands firm in the pocket and delivers the ball even with guys in his face. The area he needs to improve on to help eliminate some of the concerns around his mobility is ability to navigate the pocket. If he isn’t going to escape rushers by leaving the pocket like so many other QB’s do, he needs to be better at evading them while staying in the pocket. If he can do that, then his athleticism won’t be talked about as negatively as it would be otherwise.

The Man

Daniels college career hasn’t exactly been smooth sailing despite the hype he received coming out of high school. He attended Mater Dei High in Santa Ana, California, where he made a name for himself as the #2 pro-style QB in his class. He had a rough first season as a starter for USC, finishing with just 14 touchdowns to 10 interceptions. In 2019, he suffered a major knee injury that ended his season in week 1. That is when Kedon Slovis who I just covered here took over and played so well that Daniels was clearly going to be the back up if he stayed at USC. Like many others, he chose to transfer out and landed at Georgia for the 2020 season. Not expected to start immediately due to recovering from his knee injury, Daniels finally was given a shot vs Mississippi State and never looked back. He went 4-0 as a starter including a bowl game victory against Cincinnati in the Peach Bowl. He has proved his resilience, now we just need to see him perform at a high level over the course of a full season.

Final Thoughts

Daniels evaluation feels incomplete considering his limited tape over the past 2 years. Despite this though, his ability as a thrower combined with the opportunity to see him play a (hopefully) full season against SEC competition should be enough to keep a close eye on him this season. If he can show the same promise he did in his short showing last season and improve his flaws, he could end up being one of the first 5 QB’s taken in 2022. His lack of mobility may limit his potential a bit, but I think he can be a very good NFL QB. As far as his fit for the Steelers, it isn’t exactly ideal considering the state of our offensive line and his inconsistency navigating the pocket. I like to think the Steelers are planning on targeting a more athletic passer going forward, so unless Daniels shows improved pocket awareness and decision making, he may not be on their radar.

Verdict: Very unlikely

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