National Football League
Emoji-Gate not enough to scare Commanders off Jayden Daniels
National Football League

Emoji-Gate not enough to scare Commanders off Jayden Daniels

Published Apr. 23, 2024 1:19 p.m. ET

The Washington Commanders aren't going to be scared off by one little emoji.

They still have two more days to decide for sure whether LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels will be their choice with the No. 2 pick in the 2024 NFL Draft on Thursday night, but this much about the Commanders' plans is already clear: If Daniels is the quarterback they want, they will take him. And they'll do it despite the social media stir created late last week when Daniels' agent appeared to express his frustration with the team.

One team source dismissed the controversy as "just noise" and insisted they have "no indication at all" that Daniels would be unhappy if he's taken by Washington. In fact, according to multiple sources, Commanders general manager Adam Peters and Daniels' agent, Ron Butler, talked on the phone late last week and settled any lingering issues.

Another team source insisted the whole flap was "way overblown" and that selecting Daniels at No. 2 is still very much in play. In fact, many sources around the NFL are convinced that Daniels will inevitably be the Commanders' choice.


[Read more: 2024 NFL Draft odds: Jayden Daniels' second pick odds shortening]

There were some doubts about that around the NFL last week, though, after the Commanders brought in a group of 20 players for a pre-draft visit — a group that included Daniels, North Carolina's Drake Maye, Michigan's J.J. McCarthy and Washington's Michael Penix. But after it ended, Butler re-Tweeted a video of Mike Florio of criticizing the Commanders for their unusual choice to bring in so many top quarterbacks for a visit at the same time. And Butler topped the retweet with a "thinking face" emoji.

Though it wasn't completely clear what that meant, it still quickly turned into Emoji-Gate. Suddenly there were rumors swirling that Daniels was hoping to force his way to the Minnesota Vikings, who have the 11th and 23rd picks in the first round and are known to be trying to trade up into the Top 5 for a quarterback. There were also old rumors revived that his real preference was to play for the Las Vegas Raiders (who have the 13th pick) and head coach Antonio Pierce who once helped recruit Daniels to Arizona State.

On Friday, Denise White, Daniels' public relations and marketing rep, tried to quash the speculation by posting a statement on Twitter that read "Jayden Daniels is excited to be part of the NFL and wherever he is drafted he will be happy to be a part of that organization."

A Commanders source insisted they never thought otherwise. They were aware that Butler wasn't happy with the Commanders' group visit, in part because the team didn't inform the players until just a few days before that they wouldn't each be visiting alone. In fact, the source said Butler wasn't the only agent of a quarterback unhappy with the group visit, which included a trip to Topgolf.

But Peters, who took the group-visit concept from his days as the assistant GM in San Francisco, insisted the tactic worked.

"It was very beneficial to see everybody in a more relaxed environment," he said last Thursday. "They all got a lot of time individually with their coaches, with us. They were staggered coming in, too, so it wasn't like they were sitting in a room together. They all had their own individual time with everybody. So it worked out really well."

Does Jayden Daniels have a right to be upset with the Commanders?

After Butler and Peters spoke, a team source said the Commanders are aware of "no other issues" and never got the sense that Daniels was trying to force them not to draft him. The source said Daniels gave a positive impression in his individual meetings with Commanders coaches and staff and never seemed like he didn't want to be there.

So if this was some sort of power play to determine his eventual destination, it's been a weak one. One source pointed out that if Daniels really didn't want to be drafted by Washington, he never would have taken the visit. Multiple NFL sources also pointed out that even if the Commanders passed on him — and took Maye instead — Daniels would almost certainly be selected by the New England Patriots at No. 3.

The Patriots have said they're open to trading down, so it's not inconceivable that the Vikings could come up to that spot for Daniels. The Raiders, however, don't have any extra picks until the seventh round of this draft, making it unlikely they'd have the ammunition to get a trade into the Top 5 done.

And the Commanders aren't trading their pick either. "We feel great about staying at No. 2," Peters said. "I don't see a whole lot of scenarios where we trade down, to be honest with you."

But will they stay there and take Daniels?

A few weeks ago, the NFL seemed split on whether Peters would take Daniels or Maye. But, as NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah said on a conference call last week, "coaches and executives around the league … are like overwhelming convinced that this is Jayden Daniels — that he is going to be the pick there at No. 2."

"I don't see how they don't take him at this point," added an NFL scout. "He's the most explosive quarterback in the draft, beyond Caleb (Williams, who is expected to be the No. 1 overall pick by the Chicago Bears). He's a dangerous playmaker. And he looks more ready than Maye. Maybe Maye has a slightly higher ceiling, but Daniels is going to reach his faster.

"Daniels is just much more of a sure thing — and that's something that franchise really needs."

Ralph Vacchiano is the NFC East reporter for FOX Sports, covering the Washington Commanders, Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants. He spent the previous six years covering the Giants and Jets for SNY TV in New York, and before that, 16 years covering the Giants and the NFL for the New York Daily News. Follow him Twitter at @RalphVacchiano.


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