Daniels Adds Size, Speed, Hustle

Fourth-round pick Mike Daniels made his mark at Iowa as a hard-charging, athletic defensive lineman. With those skills, he'll fit right in on a Packers defense that plays nickel most of the time.

At just 6-feet tall, Iowa's Mike Daniels wasn't the tallest defensive tackle available in the draft. And at just 291 pounds, he wasn't even close to being the biggest.

"Story of my life," Daniels would say when asked about his perceived height and weight deficiencies.

But speed? Yeah, he's got a little something to hang his helmet on in that category. The former Hawkeyes defensive captain said he's uncorked a 4.77 40-yard dash. That personal best is 0.02 seconds faster than Mississippi State's Fletcher Cox, the 12th pick in the first round, who ran a position-best 4.79 at the NFL Combine. On the field, that speed translated into nine sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss last season, and had a lot to do with the Packers tabbing Daniels with the first of their two compensatory picks in the fourth round, the 132nd overall pick.

"There's no question that he can do all the movement things, and when you watch him on tape, that's the thing that jumps out at you where he'll make a quick move and beat a block and go get the quarterback," said Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers, who's had Daniels on his radar since last year, when they were scouting three Iowa pro prospects on the defensive line.

Green Bay would be doing well if Daniels mirrored the success of those former Hawkeyes lineman, including Adrian Clayborn, a 2011 first-round pick of the Buccaneers who had 7.5 sacks, and Karl Klug, a fifth-rounder last year for the Titans, who notched seven sacks. Klug, a 6-foot-3, 280 pounder, is a player Daniels said his game most resembled. That pedigree was another plus mentioned by the Packers in selecting Daniels.

But Daniels is ready to make his own mark. And when asked if he had a favorite pass rush move or technique that helped him rack up 15.5 career sacks and 27 tackles for losses, Daniels, on cue, offered up a lightning-quick response.

"Yeah, I call it hustle," he said, drawing laughs from reporters in the Packers media auditorium. "I just don't stop going. If you hustle, I'm not saying something great is going to happen all the time, but you increase your chances."

Daniels arrived on the Hawkeyes' campus as a 230-pound freshman who played defensive line and running back at Highland Regional High School in Blackwood , N.J. Despite adding 60 pounds to his frame and starting 21 games over his final two seasons in Iowa City – including all 13 games in 2011 -- teams were hardly salivating at the thought of adding him to their team.

At the Scouting Combine, each NFL team has the opportunity to schedule 30 interviews with draft-eligible players. Aside from the made-for-TV portion of the Combine with big men running around in spandex, the interviews offer teams a chance to look a prospect in the eye and get to know them as a player and a person. So with 32 teams, that's 960 interviews in total. Daniels had one formal interview scheduled. Uno. And considering that shoulder surgery at the end of January for a labrum injury prevented him from working out, he had to make the most of it.

Fortunately, that team was the Packers, and they definitely liked what they heard.

"We were very impressed with him in the interview," Capers said. "We think that he's an ‘all football' guy. He brings a lot of energy. Very productive, 9.5 sacks, very good quickness, good motor, he goes hard all the time and we like what he'll bring here to our front."

Daniels played in a traditional 4-3 defensive scheme at Iowa, and doesn't fit the mold of any of the three defensive line spots in the Packers' 3-4 base scheme. But with his speed, he could become a valuable contributor as one of the two lineman in nickel, a formation that's become every bit a staple of the Packers defense as their base alignment.

"We played the Detroit Lions twice (last year), and you can count, it's just a handful of your base defense that you're going to play against them because they're in a three-wide receiver set, and when they're not in a three-wide receiver set, their second tight end is like a wide receiver and they run the same package," Capers said. "You're not going to be playing much of your base defense and that's two games in our division.

"Now you could go on and say that we opened with the New Orleans Saints last year, we did not play one snap of our base defense because of the style of play that they play, because they're always looking for match-ups. The game's changed. You have to have those elements within your package, but the percentage is going to be based a lot on who you're playing against."

Despite Daniels coming off the board 81 spots after the team moved up to grab Michigan State defensive lineman Jerel Worthy in the second round, Capers can envision both of his rookies lining up together in nickel and getting after the quarterback.

"I think they give you the kind of quickness and explosiveness and some of the things where we feel we needed to become a quicker, faster defense," Capers said. "We've got enough flexibility we'll adjust what we're doing to try to get our best football players on the field."

Daniels seems determined to make sure he's one of them.

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