As we lead up to the NFL Draft here at 1500ESPN, we will take a closer look at the prospects who could end up as Minnesota Vikings. For this edition, we focus on Iowa center James Daniels…
Why the Vikings could draft James Daniels:
The Vikings aren’t just on the market for an offensive lineman, they are looking for a guard or tackle who fits the needs of a running game built around Dalvin Cook. Iowa’s James Daniels fits the bill. He’s a strong run blocker with good athleticism and has the smarts and toughness to fit in on an offensive line with a hard-nosed mentality. Daniels has a great chance of being available late in the first round.
What draft experts are saying:
“Daniels is a very athletic and technically proficient center. In the run game, he’s extremely quick and effective on reach blocks and second-level blocks. I’m amazed by his ability to stay attached with his hands while he re-works his foot positioning. In pass pro, he plays with outstanding knee bend and balance. He shoots his hands quickly and can anchor against power as well as redirect vs. counters. He’s very aware. Daniels is one of the best center prospects I’ve evaluated in the last five years.”
“Hyper-athletic center who plays with a mean streak in the run game. Zone teams will adore him. Excellent leverage and leg churn on the move, accurate at the second level and plays through the whistle. Some weakness against powerful bull rushes. Not nearly as strong or impactful in pass protection. Day Two pick. Could sneak into Round 1.”
“Daniels is a fluid mover with tremendous initial quickness to win positioning on most every zone block he’s asked to make — both on the first and second levels. His height, weight and arm length numbers at the Combine will be critical in either solidifying his draft slot or potentially dropping him a round. Some teams might see him as a zone-only center, but he may be strong enough to fit in with other blocking schemes. He needs to get stronger, but he’s a plus run blocker and pass protector with a chance to become a Pro Bowl starter.”
What the numbers say:
Pro Football Focus’s grades make it very clear where Daniels’ strengths and weaknesses lie: He is one of the very best run blockers in the draft, but struggles at times in pass protection. It’s important to note that the success of interior offensive linemen is much better predicted by run blocking than pass blocking, which is the opposite of tackles. So Daniels’ weak pass grade shouldn’t be a huge concern.
At the NFL Combine, Daniels was one of the most outstanding interior lineman, scoring among the best at his position in all of the speed and quickness areas. Daniels’ wing span is a major benefit, especially when reaching three-technique defensive tackles in an outside zone run scheme.
While Daniels played center at Iowa, his skill set and mentality make him an attractive target. The biggest question may be whether the Vikings would take him at No. 30 or if they would trade up in the second round or even try to pick him up in the second. In a draft that’s deep with solid interior linemen, Daniels could end up being a steal.
Watch James Daniels: