Daniels leads four from CA in NFL Draft

Quarterback Jayden Daniels is shown on NFL Draft night in Detroit (left) and while he was playing in high school in San Bernardino County. Photos: @LSUfootball / Twitter.com & YouTube.com.

Jayden Daniels from Cajon of San Bernardino rises up to the No. 2 place overall in the NFL Draft one year after California had the first and second picks. Three others also heard their names called during Thursday’s first round in Detroit. The state had five in the first round just two years ago and six in 2018.

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Just one year removed when there was a former California high school quarterback taken at No. 1 in the first round of the NFL Draft who also had passed for 13,250 yards in his prep career, there is another one chosen at No. 2 who passed for even more yards in his prep career.

Jayden Daniels, who played at Cajon of San Bernardino from 2015 to 2018 and passed for 14,007 career yards, had been thought to be the likely selection of the Washington Commanders as the No. 2 choice off the board during Thursday’s NFL Draft for the first round that was held in downtown Detroit. After Caleb Williams of USC (who went to high school in Washington DC) was chosen first overall (as expected) by the Chicago Bears, Daniels indeed went next to the Commanders.

Jayden Daniels started creating magic at Cajon of San Bernardino as a freshman. Photo: #D1Nation/@SportsRecruits.

The recent Heisman Trophy winner from LSU and previously from Arizona State will now step into an intriguing situation with a new head coach (Dan Quinn) and new offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury, who worked with Williams last season at USC and before that was head coach of the Arizona Cardinals where he had recent No. 1 pick Kyler Murray.

Daniels hopes his No. 2 slot overall will eventually prove to be similar to the No. 2 spot that fellow Inland Empire product C.J. Stroud was taken in last season by the Houston Texans. Stroud (from Rancho Cucamonga) was the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year and had one of the best debut seasons for a rookie QB in NFL history.

At Cajon, Daniels started putting up huge totals as a dual-threat QB as a freshman in the 2015 season. In his junior year, the Cowboys went all the way to the CIF D2-A state championship and although they lost to Serra of San Mateo he set a state record with 6,431 yards of total offense.

In his senior season at Cajon in 2018, Jayden became the first QB in CIF Southern Section history to pass for more than 14,000 yards in a career and finished with 14,007. His section record hasn’t been threatened since, but the next season in 2019 Bryce Young from Mater Dei of Santa Ana moved into the No. 2 spot at 13,250 yards. He had played his first two seasons at Catheral of Los Angeles. Young then went to Alabama and last year was the No. 1 pick overall in the NFL Draft by the Carolina Panthers.

Despite going over 14,000 yards, Daniels did not get close to the state career record of 16,775 passing yards set in 2014 by Jake Browning of Folsom. Browning, however, didn’t run much in his high school years, which was the opposite of what Jayden did. With his rushing yards added on (more than 3,000), Daniels broke Browning’s total offense career state record of 16,915 yards and as a senior ended with 17,406 yards. Jayden’s top total offense single game at Cajon was 392 yards passing and 200 yards rushing in a 56-34 win in 2018 vs Yucaipa.

Last year, after Young and Stroud went 1st and 2nd, there were no other California players who were selected in the first round. This year, after Daniels, there were three. Each of those three are written up below.

Napa’s Brock Bowers was one of the best tight ends in college football as a freshman at Georgia. Photo: Twitter.com.

Brock Bowers (Napa)
One of the best tight ends in college football history from the University of Georgia will be playing fairly close to home in the NFL after he was chosen 13th by the Las Vegas Raiders. Napa High is one of the oldest schools in Northern California that goes back to 1897 and has never had a pro athlete selected in any draft higher than Bowers. The highest we could find was baseball’s Bill Buckner at 25th overall in the first round of the 1968 MLB Draft. Bowers probably would have gone higher than 13th if six quarterbacks had not been selected within the first 12 of Thursday’s draft.

Laiatu Latu (Jesuit, Carmichael)
Just two slots behind Bowers at No. 15, Jesuit’s Latu was nabbed by the Indianapolis Colts. The even bigger news is that Laiatu also became the highest selected defensive player in the entire draft after the 14 previous teams all went for offense. It is the latest a defensive player was picked in the draft’s history. Latu was one of the top defensive end recruits in the state as a senior for the Marauders and then went to the University of Washington. While there, he suffered a neck injury that for a time was said to be career-ending. Two years later, Laiatu was at UCLA and emerged as an NFL Draft prospect. He will become the seventh NFL player from Jesuit, but is not the first first-round pick. The school’s first was QB Ken O’Brien out of UC Davis in 1983 by the New York Jets. O’Brien went on to have an oustanding NFL career with 10 years and more than 25,000 yards.

Xavier Worthy (Central, Fresno)
Toward the end of the first round as teams in need of a receiver like the Dallas Cowboys and Buffalo Bills were getting ready to pick, the Bills made a trade of their No. 28 spot to the two-time defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs love speedy receivers and they got one with that pick as they chose Worthy. In fact, at the NFL Combine earlier this year, Xavier broke the 4.22 record in the 40 held by John Ross (Long Beach Jordan). We first saw him as a promising sophomore in the 2018 season with junior teammate Jeremiah Hunter and senior quarterback Trent Tompkins. Xavier was one of the best players on Central’s 2019 team that defeated Sierra Canyon of Chatsworth for the 2019 CIF D1-AA state championship and finished with a perfect 15-0 record. The 2020 season of course was the one wrecked by COVID, but Worthy still gained a scholarship offer from Michigan. He later switched to Texas and was an immediate contributor as a freshman for the Longhorns in the 2021 season.

Mark Tennis is the editor and publisher of Cal-Hi Sports. He can be reached at markjtennis@gmail.com. Don’t forget to follow Mark on the Cal-Hi Sports Twitter handle: @CalHiSports

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