2012 NFL Draft Preview: Duke

Duke Safety Matt Daniels Seems Pretty Confident He’ll Be Drafted Come April

Leading up to April’s NFL Draft, we’ll be taking a look at each ACC‘s school’s prospects and where they’re slated to be chosen. While 43 ACC players were invited to the NFL Draft Combine, those not in attendance also have ample opportunity to hear their name called between April 26 and 28.

Sending out a younger group in 2011, Duke didn’t have a ton of graduating seniors — save standout safety Matt Daniels, who is the school’s only real potential draft pick.

Matt Daniels, SS, Senior

Even for a Duke defense that usually looked out-of-sorts throughout his time there, Matt Daniels was still a true star, racking up a high number of tackles and registering some big hits both before and after the catch. Last season, the Blue Devil was second in the ACC in tackles, registering 126 in just 12 games. While several games could be considered his “best” of 2011, Daniels’s talent most resonated after a two-interception, 13-tackle effort versus Virginia Tech in October. Virtually taking over the game, he had the supposedly over-matched Duke defense going blow-for-blow with the Hokies in a close 14-10 loss. At 6’1″ and 215 pounds, he’s the perfect size for the strong safety position, though his speed has been a concernEast-West Shrine Game observers noted he continually struggled in man-to-man, easily getting laid to waste by quicker receivers. Though a zone set definitely suits him better, he’s still not a great coverage guy. While he did defend 16 passes in 2011, just two of those were converted to interceptions — and they were both in the same game. On the promising side, Daniels has worked his 40-yard dash time down to just 4.40, which would rank him among some of the quickest DBs at the draft. According to Daniels, he believes he’s getting drafted since “scouts love (him).” While projections currently have him going in the late-sixth or seventh rounds, marked improvement over the offseason have him climbing on some boards. Despite the coverage struggles, I think he’s a smart kid with a desire to keep improving. Should a zone defense come to Daniels in the fifth round, they’d be fools to pass him up.

Previously: Boston College, Clemson

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