Is Mike Daniels Overrated?

Is Mike Daniels overrated? That is my topic for discussion this Friday for the Friday Film Room on 107.5 and 1400 The Fan (WDUZ) in Green Bay. Each Friday I will take a heated debate from the week and breakdown the film to provide a decisive tie breaker on the topic. You can hear this week’s dispute here:

So there were some great opinions on the clip above. Marques believes Daniels was the best player on the defense while Rookie believes that Daniels is inconsistent and Bill felt Daniels was overrated. To be fair to all three, I believe there is some level of truth to all three arguments. We’ll break it down further below with a full tape study.

Before I jump too far into the tape, I want to go back to my grades from 2017. If you missed my grades, you can find the full list here: https://cheeseheadtv.com/blog/grading-the-pack-regular-season-totals-454

By the end of the season, Kenny Clark was easily my top rated defensive player on the team. Clark had a final grade of +10.95 while Daniels was second on the defense with a +6.30. Only Clark, Daniels and Matthews had grades of +5.0 or better on the defense. So to go back to Marques’s point above, he stated that Daniels and Clark were the two best players on the Packers' defense. While I whole heartedly agree and my grades support that, I would flip the order of Clark & Daniels.

Pursuing Daniels’ grades a bit farther, he started out on fire against Seattle with a monster +3.15 grade in week 1 alone. He then was injured after only 7 plays in week 2 and sat out weeks 3 and 4. In week 5 he came back and was obviously still feeling the effects of the injury as he posted his lowest grade of the season (-1.40). He bounced back in week 6 against Minnesota with a really nice +2.50 grade and then the rest of the season was fairly average. He finished the remaining 10 games with a cumulative +2.15 grade. His best remaining game was week 10 at Chicago (+1.90) and his worst remaining game was at Carolina (-0.95). 

Daniels would end the season with 5 sacks and 34 tackles in 629 total snaps. He was my second highest rated defensive player in average grade per play (minimum 200 snaps), basically averaging an above average play once every 10 snaps.

Of course, playing defensive tackle has a lot more to do with sacks and tackles. Defensive linemen are constantly working to free linebackers, plug running lanes, penetrate, generate pressure, collapse pockets, etc… etc… etc…

From a talent standpoint, Daniels can do just about everything you want from a defensive tackle. He is a high energy player with a  strong motor, he can collapse pockets, penetrate, stuff the run, hold up at the point of attack, and as the clip stated, he’s also been able to get at least four sacks for the past 5 straight seasons. Here’s a bit of what I (and Ben Fennell) saw on tape in 2017:

Daniels’ Quickness and First Step

Hustle & Motor

Power & Penetration

Fights Through Blocks

Hold Up at the Point of Attack

This is simply a sampling of the plays that Daniels had in 2017. It’s certainly not just a highlight tape of his biggest plays but gives you an idea of how he contributes on a down by down basis. It’s worth noting that creating consistent playmaking from the defensive tackle spot isn’t the easiest task in the world. Yes we’ve had two generational players in Aaron Donald and JJ Watt over the course of the past 5 years show how dominant a player can be from the inside, but those are super rare athletes that don’t come around every day. They are certainly the exception to the rule. The NFL is about playmaking and it’s tough for defensive tackles to make consistent plays and to really flash on tape. Interior linemen are constantly grinding a game out against offensive linemen who are using every trick in the book to try to wear them down. Daniels’ ability to make plays on the inside with some level of consistency is a huge benefit to the Packers’ defense.

So why didn’t Daniels’ have a higher grade in 2017? This is my second level of agreement on the audio clip. Rookie stated that Daniels was inconsistent in his play and I’d tend to agree with that. It wasn’t egregious but Daniels would disappear for long stretches and during those stretches, he’d have little impact on the game. Especially over the course of the second half of the season, there was way too much of this on tape:

Again, consistent playmaking from the defensive tackle position isn’t easy, but elite players and elite playmakers will find ways to make an impact. I simply saw too much of Daniels being blocked one on one and washed out of the play over the course of the season as a whole. It certainly could have been due to injury or trying to play more snaps per game in 2017, but Daniels’ tape lacked the sustained success from down to down, even for a defensive tackle, to grade out as an elite level player.

That brings us to the final question… Is Mike Daniels overrated? That answer is simply in the eye of the beholder. If I were starting a defense tomorrow and had to choose one of the Packers’ defenders to start my team with, the only two players I’m choosing from are Daniels and Clark. And while I’d give the nod to Clark due to his age, contract, and grade from 2017, I wouldn’t argue against anyone who wanted to choose Daniels. Every team needs a Mike Daniels. A hard working, emotional leader who can back his play up on the field. Sure there are gaps in the tape that I’m sure Daniels would love to improve upon in 2018, but the effort, energy and results are there.

I didn’t think Mike Daniels was a Pro Bowl caliber player in 2017 and I fully believe Kenny Clark was more deserving then him. That said, Daniels is living up to his contract, was my second highest graded defender on the team, Bleacher Reports 5th rated 3-4 defensive end in their NFL 1000 series, and PFF’s 15th rated interior defender.

While I believe Daniels is a tier below interior defenders such as Aaron Donald, Fletcher Cox, Geno Atkins, Jurrell Casey, Gerald McCoy, Grady Jarrett, and Kawann Short, it’s not like there’s anything wrong with being a top 10-15 interior defender in the NFL.

Is Daniels a little bit overrated as a Pro Bowl defensive tackle? Maybe. But over the course of the past season plus, my favorite part of watching the Packers defense is watching the duo of Clark and Daniels inside. It’s Green Bay’s strength on defense going into 2018 and the scary part is that Daniels and Clark both have room to grow in 2018. I believe Mike Pettine can maximize the value of both and that both Daniels and Clark can have true Pro Bowl caliber seasons in 2018.

Listen to last week’s show here: 

Read last weeks' article on Jordy Nelson here: https://cheeseheadtv.com/blog/is-jordy-nelson-done-in-green-bay-436 

More on how Mike Pettine can utilize players like Clark and Daniels from Chris Peterson: https://cheeseheadtv.com/blog/mike-pettine-must-utilize-packers-current-talent-425

Listen to Friday’s segment live at 9:50am with Marques, Rookie, Bill and I here: http://www.thefan1075.com

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Andy is a graduate of UW-Oshkosh and owns & operates the Pack-A-Day Podcast. Andy has taken multiple courses in NFL scouting and is an Editor for Packer Report. You can find him on WFRV's Green Bay Nation and every Friday on the Friday Film Room on WDUZ . Andy grew up in Green Bay and is a lifelong season ticket holder - follow him on Twitter @AndyHermanNFL!

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Comments (30)

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John Kirk's picture

February 01, 2018 at 05:25 pm

I haven't done any tape study on Daniels play but isn't it fair to say he's a lot like Clay Matthews in that he'll look fantastic versus very weak competition as in the Seahawks and Bucs and even Cincy and then not anywhere near as good against good OLs like the Cowboys? Clay and MIke make a living off killing inferior players but when they face good or better competition they make few plays and have little impact.

Reggie used to bother me in this regard but not to the extremes Daniels and Clay fall along. Reggie White would abuse most OTs but whenever he faced Erik Williams of the Cowboys he was a non factor. All Williams would do is push him outside and Reggie would be run right out of the play. Larry Allen had similar success against him. Reggie had one sack in 3 playoff games vs. the Cowboys. Not sure if that came against Williams or Allen but I just recall he was owned by Erik Williams a lot like Clay and Daniels are against good to better competition.

The biggest issue is with all the #1 picks dumped into this defense that Mike Daniels is thought of as maybe the best we have is indicting. The best we have to offer isn't dominant. Just another solid unspectacular player unless he's facing brutal opposing offensive lineman. Here's hoping young Kenny keeps ascending and becomes everything people thought Amobi Okoye was going to.

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Oppy's picture

February 01, 2018 at 06:40 pm

Um, Larry Allen was one of the strongest human beings to ever walk the planet. Dude benched 700 lbs and could squat over 900 lbs... And he's an NFL talent OL played 14 years in the league and made the all-decade team for two different decades.. Reggie's greatest advantage was raw power. Larry Allen was probably the only lineman in the league that could just straight up out-power White. Also keep in mind you're talking about a young Larry Allen vs. a Reggie White on the backside of his career.

I certainly wouldn't hold that against White that Larry Allen contained him. That's just a testament to the powerhouse Larry Allen was, not a knock on the talent that Reggie White was.

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John Kirk's picture

February 02, 2018 at 08:47 am

You do understand why I brought Reggie into this? It wasn't to rip Reggie or for you to tell me how strong Larry Allen was. I get it. What has been lost is why I related Reggie to Mike Daniels. Reggie was owned by the Dallas OL. That is an accurate statement not meant to disparage the greatness of Reggie White. It was meant to show that there are levels a player operates at. Reggie was dominant but had a kryptonite in Dallas so he wasn't the king of kings. MIke Daniels finds way too much kryptonite that aren't at the level of Erik Williams and Larry Allen. Mike Daniels allows opposing OL that are nowhere near at the level of the guys who shutdown Reggie shut him down. So, the deduction or inference is Mike Daniels is nowhere near greatness. He's a very good player who dominates poor competition and wins occasionally vs. good competition. You add up his impact across the board and he's not an elite player where Reggie consistently won everywhere but vs. Dallas.

When it comes to the argument underrated or overrated, as Andy's piece notes, that's all subjective. If you want to compare Mike Daniels to what we've had over the years he is very underrated. You want to measure vs. the elites he's overrated, if you feel he's a dominant player. Depends on your standard of measure. I always think you should measure yourself against the best. Many Packers fans think the measuring stick is less than that as evidenced by making excuses for why we aren't the Patriots (the gold standard) and citing at least we're not Cleveland (the lowest standard to measure against). That is perspective in a nutshell.

I like Mike Daniels. I'm glad he's a Packer. He's a nice player and better than the vast majority of what we've trotted out on D over the last several seasons but when I look around the league at what other teams put out there, it's sad Mike Daniels is our best or close to it. He's not an elite game changing player unless he's facing very inferior opposing OL.

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HankScorpio's picture

February 02, 2018 at 09:14 am

"I like Mike Daniels. I'm glad he's a Packer. He's a nice player and better than the vast majority of what we've trotted out on D over the last several seasons but when I look around the league at what other teams put out there, it's sad Mike Daniels is our best or close to it. He's not an elite game changing player unless he's facing very inferior opposing OL."

This is a fair opinion. It's a shame you clouded it with so many words that served to divert from it and confuse the issue.

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John Kirk's picture

February 02, 2018 at 09:40 am

I appreciate the feedback. I'm not sure what diverted from it? The Reggie stuff? Probably not a great choice for fans who are younger who don't vividly remember his time here or remember it at all. Best way I could cement what I'm saying about Mike Daniels when it comes to how I see him perform and how that relates to how to realistically view him overall.

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HankScorpio's picture

February 02, 2018 at 10:13 am

Reggie White was one of the most dominant DL to ever don a uniform. By pointing out that he could be blocked, you lessened the impact of saying Daniels could be blocked. How do you not get that?

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John Kirk's picture

February 02, 2018 at 11:11 am

I don't see it as you do. No shock there. :)

Yes, Reggie, one of the best all time could be blocked by Williams and Allen. Reggie also dominated Max Lane (who?) in the SB with 3 sacks which shows how a player appears one way based on the level of competition he faces. Reggie didn't just beat the Max Lane's of the world, he beat most everybody hence the basis for your comment on being one of the most dominant to don a uniform.

You're a black and white guy. Let me just put it like this...

Reggie White 30-1

Mike Daniels 18-13

Reggie could beat 30 out of the other 31 teams OL. Mike Daniels can beat 18 out of 31. Obviously, these are approximations meant to show the type of differential that existed between the two players. Why one was dominant and one is not. One beat almost everybody. One beats more than the majority but is still stifled by quite a few.

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Oppy's picture

February 02, 2018 at 11:03 am

First, let me say that I don't believe anyone thinks Mike Daniels is an NFL all time great in the mold of Reggie White.

However, I wonder if part of the disconnect here might be that you are falling back on stats- you cite the highest number of sacks Daniels achieved vs. certain competition- and are relating that data as an indicator of relative dominance (or lack thereof). Mike Daniels plays along the interior of the line in a Capers defense- a defense that generally does not task those linemen with getting after the QB down in and down out. Yes, they get their number called from time to time, but more often than not, the DL's job description (even the ends) is maintain gap integrity and keep the LB's clean so they can get after the QB. As you know, Reggie White played DE in Fritz's 4-3, and the DE's in particular were asked to rush the passer first and foremost in that defense.

All I'm pointing out here, and it's something that I believe this article actually did a decent job of as well, is that if you are going to classify Daniels' performances vs. competition based on what shows up on stat sheets, you are missing the bulk of his contributions. The DL , particularly the interior, in Dom's defenses, aren't asked to be what most consider "playmakers", and if you're not watching how they're competing and controlling the lanes on a down to down basis, you're missing out on them doing their core job.

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John Kirk's picture

February 02, 2018 at 01:57 pm

Hey Oppy... No. Not comparing stats. Reggie and Daniels are different positions. I'm talking about overall impact. Reggie didn't need any sacks in a game to have influence same as Daniels. Mike Daniels overall impact or value relative to the elite in this league is not that impressive.

Again, I like him but I believe Packers players are often seen in the wrong light because the context is incorrect. On our defense he's a star relative to what we see year after year. It's not dissimilar from me seeing Blake Martinez after years of AJ Hawk. Blake looks all world in that vane but comparing not his stats but his actual impact vs stars in this league paint him in a much different light. Context and perspective is vital.

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Tundraboy's picture

February 02, 2018 at 03:55 pm

"Also keep in mind you're talking about a young Larry Allen vs. a Reggie White on the backside of his career."

Exactly. Towards very end of his career.

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HankScorpio's picture

February 01, 2018 at 07:52 pm

So what you're saying is that better offensive linemen handle the better defensive linemen at a greater success rate than poor offensive linemen.

That's quite a news flash there.

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John Kirk's picture

February 01, 2018 at 08:54 pm

Erik Williams is the one who usually drew Reggie. If memory serves, Williams was hurt and Reggie and Allen locked up for one matchup. If you watched the Packers back then you would instantly understand Erik Williams dominating Reggie.

Yes. Hank, that is what I'm saying. The application is Clay and Mike aren't top players at their positions for a great number of their matchups. Where Reggie struggled vs. mostly Dallas our current pair struggles vs. a much higher number of teams.

The principle applies to the type of fan who would draw conclusions on Adrian Clayborn of the Falcons based on his monster game when Tyron Smith was out. Clayborn looked like Lawrence Taylor against the two scrubs trotted out there in Tyron's place. Clayborn had 2 sacks in 8 games prior to getting 6 and 2 forced fumbles against Dak.

Look at Daniels this season. His highest sack total came against Seattle's dumpster fire of an OL and fans were fired up about the D based on a mirage.

Clay netted 3 sacks vs. a Tampa OL featuring backups at multiple positions and Winston back off after missing almost a month. He had 4.5 sacks in all the other games combined. Those who validate Clay based on 7.5 sacks don't get it and really don't when they talk of trying to replace his "production".

Overall, when your guys are facing average OL and aren't producing they're not that good despite them getting fat on brutal competition.

Fans love to do this with their entire team, also. Go look at who the Vikings played this season and you tell me if it's really a surprise Philly won that game? I didn't count one single impressive win prior to the miracle win vs. the Saints. Horribly overrated because few took the time to really see them for who they were.

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Since'61's picture

February 01, 2018 at 11:05 pm

Reggie may have been contained by the Dallas OL but I would give all of our current front 7 starters to have a player of his caliber on the defense today.
Reggie was the type of player that you could build your defense around as the Packers did during the mid-nineties. He is the best player the Packers defense has had since the Lombardi era defense. The Packers have not had a defensive player like him since he left the team after the '98 season.

The Dallas OL of that era was one of the best OLs in NFL history and they handled many great defenders during their SB run in the early nineties.
As for Daniels he is a good player but a long way from the level of Reggie White. Thanks, Since '61

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flackcatcher's picture

February 02, 2018 at 01:18 am

'61, It wasn't until Ron Wolf signed Sean Jones that Reggie White saw single blocking. Still burns me to this day that Holgrim (yes I am misspelling on purpose) refused to active an extra DE for the Superbowl. That act of hubris cost the Packers the game. Will never forgive him for that.

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HankScorpio's picture

February 02, 2018 at 08:52 am

"Yes. Hank, that is what I'm saying. The application is Clay and Mike aren't top players at their positions for a great number of their matchups. "

Wow, more breaking news that Clay Matthews is not a top OLB anymore.

On top of the cutting edge news that top OL can handle anyone that lines up across from them.

You're on a roll.

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John Kirk's picture

February 02, 2018 at 09:48 am

It's been some years now for Clay and I wasn't referencing Clay to begin with I just threw him in as he is another like Mike who appears to some to be better than he is when he lunches inferior competition.

Who handles Aaron Donald? Not sure there's anyone but if there is, it's a lot smaller number than those who handle Mike Daniels. So, that is the point of bringing in Reggie to the conversation as to set him apart from Mike Daniels. Reggie may have been handled by one team where Mike Daniels is handled by many. Same for Clay and it's been like that for a long time.

I enjoy your snarky replies.

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marpag1's picture

February 02, 2018 at 12:14 pm

One thing I don't like about 'The Greek Freak' is that he kind of has the same problem as Jordan.

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Ds300916's picture

February 01, 2018 at 06:13 pm

We as fans have been calling Daniels underrated for years, calling it unfair that he hadnt yet made a pro-bowl. He makes one probowl and all of a sudden he's overrated? Cmon Andrew.

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AndyHerman's picture

February 01, 2018 at 06:18 pm

I really think you either didn't read or didn't understand the context of the article. I was asked to break an argument as to whether or not Mike Daniels was overrated. My end result is that based on this season alone he was probably a tad overrated as a Pro Bowl player but broke down the numerous ways in which he benefits the Packers and that overall he's a damn good football player that helps the Packers. I also stated he's one of the top 2 players on the defense...

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Oppy's picture

February 01, 2018 at 07:09 pm

Nice breakdown. Do me a favor and give Ben Fennel a high five for me. His snippet about watching the 2 yard run is the type of observation I pay close attention to on Sundays and I have always enjoyed watching the battles on the line as opposed to just following the football.

Kenny Clark is going to be the best DL the Packers have had since Ryan Pickett.. my guess is most fans don't think that's a high compliment, but I'm guessing Ben Fennel would understand how I really feel about Kenny Clark.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

February 01, 2018 at 08:08 pm

I mentally double the author's defensive scores. Mike Daniels is really good. Never all-pro, or even top 5 or 6, but right there after that. And he plays some 1 technique which he can do but it isn't his best spot.

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flackcatcher's picture

February 01, 2018 at 10:50 pm

I'm not going to rap Andrew on this. It's hard trying to explain a players value in a article. If he did, it would look like a 100 page 'white paper' on cheesehead tv. tgr I agree that he underrates Daniels, with the Packers playing some sort of pass heavy coverage on early downs, both Daniels and Clarke were ask to do a lot to cover the weakness in the run game. The interior three took a great deal of punishment this year, covering for the weakness of LB play. Which makes Daniels and Clarke play last year even more impressive.

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Chuck Farley's picture

February 01, 2018 at 08:41 pm

The packers were never a 3 4 defense. It was a 5 2 defense with corners playing up. They still had no zero zip pass rush. They stopped the inside run by duh, nobody ran inside. Dumb defense based on craplayers and Daniels and Perry were right there.

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Packer_Pete's picture

February 01, 2018 at 09:01 pm

I've always felt that Daniels is a very good but not elite player. Therefore one can make arguments for all 3 statements - maybe the best player on Packers D (definitely top 3 in that aspect), but also inconsistent at times and probably overrated due to the lack of other playmakers. Now, if you had 2 more playmakers on D (other than Clark) who the opposing OC had to worry about then Daniels would absolutely have a better impact. But at the moment the opposing OC really only has to worry about Clark and Daniels. That both still had as much success this year as they did is indicative that both are above average NFL players....

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Handsback's picture

February 01, 2018 at 09:37 pm

Daniels is good. I think Landry rated him a red chip guy verses a blue. It seems very fair evaluation. Clark was also a red. Of the two...I think Clark will become a blue chip guy and don't see Daniels being there just because he doesn't keep the intensity for all 16 games.
It wouldn't surprise me if Green Bay takes the kid Vea from WA that's 6-4 and 340 pounds. The three would put their defense well on the way to the top ten.

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Colin_C's picture

February 01, 2018 at 10:59 pm

I'll take any forth round pick that can perform at Daniel's level of play. Just a gut feeling, but I think with no more than one or two good personnel moves, our D-line could be top 5 this season.

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Coldworld's picture

February 02, 2018 at 04:30 am

I’d like to see Daniels with a rotation behind him. Smaller guy, keep him fresher and his impact can go up. Love his attitude. Think he may thrive under Pettine with more imaginative use of his talents.

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Razer's picture

February 02, 2018 at 07:19 am

Daniels is good. He punches above his weight and his attitude and motor add heart to a gritty D-line. We simply don't have enough talent up front to make our D-line a force. Capers always stole from the trenches in favor of the secondary and it made us a soft defense. Give me a 4 man line with enough talent to collapse the pocket and get after the QB any time over this 3-4/2-5 mesh stuff.

Like Handsback, I wouldn't be opposed to getting another big body like Vita Vea to make our line a nightmare.

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4thand10's picture

February 02, 2018 at 01:19 pm

Or DaRon Payne

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stockholder's picture

February 02, 2018 at 10:51 am

Good Def. tackles are hard to find in NFL. Every time we put a player under the microscope. I wonder if that player should or shouldn't be traded. Mike's a Keeper. The days are gone of fearsome foursome, Steel curtain, etc. Gone are Baltimore's and The dooms day defenses. Had Daniels had the people around him, he would have been all-Pro sooner. Good tackles build the heart of your defense . Forget blaming TT for Thornton and Harrell. You must win the trenches. If the packers know a DT is going to be good , they should get him. TT hit gold with Daniels.

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