The new regime has a vision for the New England Patriots next quarterback.

In addition to a physically-gifted star between the lines, New England’s brass has stressed leadership, toughness and body language. Eliot Wolf, the Patriots de facto general manager who will have final say on draft night, wants the organization’s next signal-caller to be someone who can elevate his teammates and who teammates want to play for.

“I think everything he said points right to Jayden,” Michael Bonnette, the LSU Tigers director of communications, told “That fits Jayden to a tee.”

Jayden Daniels, a consensus top three quarterback in the 2024 NFL Draft, has been heavily connected to the Patriots. New England reportedly “really” wants to draft a quarterback third overall. Many expect the Patriots will have the chance to land either Drake Maye or Daniels with that selection.

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“I think he’s got a bright career in front of him,” said Jacques Doucet, the sports director of WAFB-TV in Baton Rouge, La.

Doucet has been at the television station since 2001 and has followed LSU football religiously for 36 years. He was there when Les Miles’ teams were viewed as a “quarterback graveyard.” That was before the arrival of legend Joe Burrow and later Daniels. Bonnette has served as LSU’s communications director for the past 21 years. He’s also in his 14th year as an associate athletic director.

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Both had a front-row seat to Daniels’ two seasons at LSU. And they believe he checks all the boxes the Patriots are looking for.

Doucet recalled when the 2023 Heisman Trophy winner played with cracked ribs against the No. 21 Missouri Tigers in October. Daniels led 23rd-ranked LSU to a 49-39 road victory, arguably the program’s most impressive win of the season.

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That’s one example of the on-field toughness Wolf and Patriots first-year head coach Jerod Mayo desire. But in reality, Daniels’ toughness was on display throughout his tenure in Baton Rouge. He was a dual-threat quarterback who consistently tried to get the extra yard against Southeastern Conference (SEC) defenses. He took a ton of licks, sometimes to a fault.

“That’s just his competitive nature doing everything he can to win a game,” Bonnette said.

Daniels showed mental toughness during that time, too. He transferred from Arizona State and took center stage at college football venues similar to the Roman Colosseum.

“In a world now where there’s the social media pressure, playing this position here at LSU is no joke,” Doucet said. “It’s a tough gig.”

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Bonnette, who said Daniels happily accommodated any request of the Tigers athletic department, referred to Daniels as a “great leader.” Daniels had a great relationship with his LSU teammates, Bonnette said. One such example will play out in a few weeks when Daniels is the final player to work out during LSU’s Pro Day. The high-profile QB asked to go last to ensure NFL scouts wouldn’t leave after he participates. He wants other teammates to have the same exposure as he and first-round wideouts Malik Nabers and Brian Thomas Jr.

“I think he’s a guy you can build a franchise around,” Bonnette said. “He’s going to elevate those around him with his leadership, his play on the field and just the way he treats people and the way he handles his business. I think people will rise to his level.”

Doucet added: “His teammates will like him. I don’t think he will come in with any kind of hot-shot rookie mentality. I think he’ll come in humble. I think he’ll be a guy that teammates want to play for.”

Not to be overshadowed, though, is Daniels’ talent on the field. The All-American QB won seven awards in 2023 including the Heisman Trophy, AP Player of the Year Award and the Davey O’Brien Award for the most outstanding quarterback. He threw 40 touchdowns and four interceptions in 12 games. Doucet, who recited each of Daniels’ four interceptions, said only one of them was his fault.

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“That’s pretty insane,” Doucet said.

Daniels totaled 4,946 yards and 50 touchdowns this past season. He completed 72.2% of his passes for 3,812 yards and added 1,134 rushing yards with 10 scores. Daniels set the SEC single-game record for total offense (606 yards) during a 52-35 win against Florida in November. He threw for 372 yards, ran for 234 yards on 12 carries and scored five touchdowns.

Doucet believes Daniels’ single-biggest strength is his ability to create with his legs. He knew Daniels was different as soon as he saw him scramble for 25 yards on the first play of LSU’s 2022 campaign.

“When I watch those games up in the press box, it’s almost like he’s toying with people. He’s not even trying,” Doucet said. “I just think that is his ability that’s very, very special.”

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Daniels won the LSU job as a transfer in 2022 because he was better equipped to deal with the team’s poor offensive line, according to Doucet.

Sound familiar Patriots fans?

While Daniels had the benefit of throwing to first-round prospects like Nabers and Thomas, those who have watched him closely believe he is capable of leading an offense without elite talent. New England had one of the worst offenses in the league in 2023, and all of those issues likely won’t be addressed in just one offseason.

However, the Patriots reportedly are prioritizing wide receiver and offensive tackle positions in free agency. New England has been linked to wideout Calvin Ridley, specifically, along with some of the top tackles in the class like Mike Onwenu, Jonah Williams and Tyron Smith.

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“I think Jayden is the type of player that makes others around him better,” Bonnette said. “I think that will help.”

When I watch those games up in the press box, it’s almost like he’s toying with people.

LSU Tigers football reporter Jacques Doucet

When Daniels transferred from the Sun Devils to the Tigers before the 2022 campaign, he didn’t come with much fanfare. Tigers fans were still searching for a quarterback who could get them back to title contention after Burrow was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.

“Statistically it didn’t look like LSU was getting a great guy,” Doucet said, referencing how Daniels threw for 2,381 yards with 10 touchdowns and 10 interceptions during his junior season at Arizona State. “He made tremendous improvements.”

Daniels led the Tigers to the SEC Championship Game after a thrilling overtime win against the Alabama Crimson Tide in early November. Doucet won’t soon forget how Daniels ran for an overtime touchdown before he connected with Mason Taylor on a game-winning two-point conversion — “That’s going to live on for years and years,” Doucet said of the Tigers beating the Crimson Tide.

SEC football fans are a different breed, though. So after a lopsided loss to the Georgia Bulldogs in the SEC Championship Game ended LSU’s title pursuit, Doucet remembers some hoping Daniels would not return. They didn’t want a really good runner who couldn’t throw the ball deep, he said.

“There was even a narrative that some people were disappointed he was coming back for another year, as ridiculous as that is to say out loud,” Doucet said.

The Tigers, however, made more of a concerted effort to throw the ball downfield. Bonnette recalled a plane ride after the Tigers threw for 85 yards against Auburn in Oct. 2022. LSU head coach Brian Kelly met with his offensive coaches and implemented some changes.

“They let Jayden loose a little bit,” Bonnette said.

Daniels and the Tigers offense scored 45 points against Florida two weeks later and then tacked on another 45 points against No. 7 Ole Miss. The turnaround led LSU to five straight wins, including victories over Florida, Ole Miss, Alabama and Arkansas.

Daniels continued to gain momentum during the offseason as he worked closer with Kelly and his receivers. Doucet compared his second-year leap to Burrow’s, though he said Daniels was more like a “rocket ship” while Burrow’s was a steady incline.

A big aspect of that was his downfield passing prowess, which was once criticized by fans and media members.

“He was challenged entering the 2023 season to make more big plays, be better down the field,” Bonnette said.

Doucet said: “You couldn’t have walked down the field and dropped it over a guys’ shoulder any better than where he placed it from 50, 60 yards.”

Both Doucet and Bonnette pushed back on the narrative that Daniels’ jump from 2022 to 2023 was because the 23-year-old quarterback was competing against players three or four years younger. It’s a narrative that has gained steam leading up to the draft.

“I don’t buy that at all,” Bonnette said. “I think, obviously, with more experience he got more comfortable. As he went through the SEC schedule for the first time in 2022, he knew what to expect. He got used to playing against SEC-caliber players and he learned and grew from it. I think that’s all you can ask for a quarterback.”

Doucet agreed.

“To go into that second year knowing from the get-go that you’re the face of the team, you’re the leader, you’re the quarterback, from the start of spring, that always makes a big difference. And look, the West Coast and Baton Rouge are nothing alike. There’s some great football out west, great tradition.

“It’s a whole ‘nother ballgame down here. So maybe he was getting used to that a little bit, too.”

Doucet also noted how fifth-year players have more time to study film and more time to be at the facility. Doucet believes having the time to do that, and more time to work with the sports technology and sports science team helped Daniels greatly.

“I do think they get to become pros almost in college,” Doucet said. “I think that’s a little different than years past.”

Both Doucet and Bonnette strongly believe Daniels has the traits to succeed as a franchise quarterback in the NFL.

“He’s going to do some franchise really proud,” Bonnette said.

Whether that’s as the next quarterback of the Patriots, though, won’t be decided until late April.

Featured image via Stephen Lew/USA TODAY Sports Images