Nebraska’s defense has been the bright spot for the Huskers this season and a big reason for their stellar play is tackle Damion Daniels. Listed at 325, Daniels slimmed down this offseason and has enjoyed the best season of his career so far. In this week’s scouting perspective I took a look at Daniels’ game against Michigan State to grade his traits and project where he fits in the NFL.
The strength (pun intended) of Daniels’ game is his ability to displace offensive lineman in an effort to make plays. That was the case against Michigan State where on several occasions Daniels was able to drive back the center or guard in a way to disrupt the running lanes. That was the occasion early in the game where Daniels was able to burst forward and power through the center’s block and forced Michigan State star running back Kenneth Walker to have to go outside to try and find a running lane.
Against the run Daniels does a great job of extending his hands to create not only space but it also allows him to use his power to drive lineman back. What Daniels has not shown on a consistent basis is the ability to use his hands to beat defenders. Against Michigan State Daniels would often get hung up on blocks causing him to miss on a few tackle attempts. The one time he did use a move was on a key 3rd and 1 where he used a power swim move to get into the backfield and force Walker to go laterally right into Ty Robinson.
When evaluating defensive tackles one trait can really show you if a prospect can be a pass rusher is their lateral agility. A big reason why Damion Daniels has struggled with consistency as a pass rusher is because he lacks the lateral agility needed. Too often Daniels is unable to make a move when he’s already engaged with a lineman to get free and attack. Even in one on one blocks, if Daniels isn’t able to win with power initially he’s just there.
A strong start to the 2021 season is sure to have Daniels on the radar of NFL teams. Daniels has some versatility to his game as he’s shown the ability to play nose tackle in an odd front or tackle in an even front. What hurts Daniels is that since he lacks the pass rushing upside NFL teams will likely see him as a rotational run stuffing defensive tackle. That being said, I still think Daniels has a shot to get drafted on day two and his ability to play in multiple defenses should make him appealing to more teams.