College News & Analysis

2023 Heisman Trophy: Comparing Jayden Daniels’ season to past Heisman-winning quarterbacks

2T6RW32 LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels (5) celebrates after a touchdown against Florida during the second half of an NCAA college football game in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Nov. 11, 2023. (AP Photo/Derick Hingle)

• Jayden Daniels is now the heavy Heisman favorite: Daniels is -1200, according to DraftKings Sportsbook, to win the Heisman Trophy.

• Daniels ranks second to only Joe Burrow in grade: Daniels’ 94.7 grade this season would be the second-best mark for a Heisman-winning quarterback in the PFF College era, trailing LSU counterpart Joe Burrow.

• Dig into the numbers for yourself: PFF's Premium Stats is the most in-depth collection of NFL and NCAA player performance data. Subscribe today to get full access!

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After entering conference championship weekend with the second-best Heisman Trophy odds, LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels is now the heavy favorite at most sportsbooks. When comparing his numbers to the other two Heisman finalist quarterbacks, it’s not difficult to see why.

Comparing Jayden Daniels to Bo Nix and Michael Penix Jr.
Name School Grade WAA* Total Yds Total TDs
Jayden Daniels LSU 94.7 1.26 5,061 50
Bo Nix Oregon 92.6 1.00 4,341 46
Michael Penix Jr. Washington 90.8 0.79 4,266 36

*WAA refers to Wins Above Average, a PFF metric that helps contextualize a college football player's value.

Keep in mind, Daniels played one fewer game than Nix and Penix, who met in the Pac-12 Championship game. Many are using LSU’s 9-3 season as an argument against the fifth-year senior. However, that had everything to do with LSU’s defensive woes rather than Daniels. The Tigers fielded the most efficient offense in the nation in expected points added per play while the defense allowed an average of 47.3 points in the team's three losses.

There is a precedent for Heisman winners whose teams weren’t necessarily national title contenders, as well. Only 14 players have won the Heisman on a team that suffered three or more losses, most recently Louisville’s Lamar Jackson in 2016.

The debate is no longer whether Daniels deserves the stiff-arm trophy. Rather, it’s how his season stacks up to past Heisman winners. Since PFF began charting college football in 2014, seven quarterbacks have won the award.

Jayden Daniels’ Grade Compared to Heisman-Winning QBs in PFF College era (Since 2014)
Name School Season Grade
Joe Burrow LSU 2019 94.9
Jayden Daniels LSU 2023 94.7
Kyler Murray Oklahoma 2018 94.6
Baker Mayfield Oklahoma 2017 94.5
Marcus Mariota Oregon 2014 93.0
Bryce Young Alabama 2021 92.2
Caleb Williams USC 2022 91.8
Lamar Jackson Louisville 2016 82.9

Burrow’s 2019 season is widely regarded as the greatest campaign that college football has ever seen, and even his grade was only 0.2 points higher than his LSU counterpart. When looking at the base stats, Daniels again stacks up well.

Jayden Daniels’ Total Yards and TDs Compared to Heisman-Winning QBs in PFF College era (Since 2014)
Name School Season Total Yds Total TDs
Jayden Daniels LSU 2023 5,061 50
Caleb Williams USC 2022 4,694 47
Bryce Young Alabama 2021 4,563 46
Joe Burrow LSU 2019 5,160 51
Kyler Murray Oklahoma 2018 4,999 51
Baker Mayfield Oklahoma 2017 4,771 46
Lamar Jackson Louisville 2016 5,174 51
Marcus Mariota Oregon 2014 4,748 54

*Stats through conference championship weekend since the Heisman is awarded before bowl games begin

No matter how one slices it, Daniels engineered one of the most impressive quarterback seasons in recent memory. Three losses be damned, he’s more than worthy of taking home the Heisman.

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