A Look At James Daniels As A Potential 2018 Draft Selection By The Detroit Lions.
Detroit Lions fans may hear the selection of James Daniels early in the 2018 NFL draft. The interior offensive line has arguably the biggest remaining hole on the current Lions roster. It is entirely possible the mentality of the team will be defensive with the hiring of former Patriots defensive coordinator, Matt Patricia, to take the helm at head coach. However, Daniels will be a very enticing prospect for the Lions to fill the need at center, keeping Graham Glasgow at left guard.
What James Daniels Has To Offer
The first thing that jumps out at you when watching Daniels tape is just how well he is able to pull and lead block. He takes great angles to second level and has the athleticism to turn inside quickly to seal off defenders. This was re-affirmed at the NFL combine where he had high scores in the 3-cone (7.29 sec) and 20 yard shuttle (4.40 sec) drills. His long arms (33 3/4″) for his size (6’3″, 295 lbs) allow him to extend to keep defenders at bay.
Daniels combines this athletic ability with some really good technique. Hip fluidity and footwork is top end and is used to turn defenders away from the play often in the running game. Does this in pass protection as well, using defenders momentum to ride them past the pocket and out of the play consistently. Feet are constantly churning making it difficult to knock him off balance when set. However, he does seem to lose footing in traffic and ends up on the falling down at times. Sinks his hips well and has a wide base in pass protection, making him a very difficult lineman to get around when he scares up on you.
These two plays against Boston College were pretty indicative of what you should expect to see from Daniels on the ground game. His athletic ability is apparent in the open field. He is quick to pick his target and takes great angles to meet the defender before they can reach the hole. He flips his hips very quick to turn seal the hole while churning his feet to drive them away from the play. Will definitely benefit from adding weight in the NFL to build functional strength. But, his textbook technique has allowed him to rarely lose ground, in spite of his average strength.
This play was a good one for showing Daniels ability to track in space in the screen game. Which is important, as the Lions have taken advantage of their quicker skill players often with screen plays under offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter. He does a good job looking for work when he has none and blocks to the whistle. He showed some ability to finish blocks well, albeit not overly consistent. Adding bulk could help with that as well as helping him sustain blocks a little longer.
Daniels works well with his guards in pass protection. They pick up stunts and interior blitzes consistently as a unit. His head is constantly on a swivel looking for work. This play is a good example how Daniels puts together his wide base, footwork, play recognition, and extension on both interior rushers, while working in tandem with the guards around him.
Is He A Good Fit For Detroit?
If the Lions stick with a similar scheme to the previous years under Cooter, Daniels would be a great fit for their zone blocking scheme. His athletic ability and arm length are something that the Lions have coveted in their lineman take under general manager Bob Quinn. His ability to reach block, down block, and pull block in space would be incredibly helpful in turning around their deficient running game from 2017. Would definitely like to see him add some weight to help strengthen the interior of the line in power situations that also plagued Detroit last year.
Ultimately, I think it comes down to value. I am not sold on him as a 1st round prospect at this point. While his technique and length are great, there may be better value than a guard with average strength at 20th overall. He would be a much better pick in the second round, but Detroit may need to trade an expendable player to move up if they would really covet Daniels as he may not quite make it to 51st pick.