Bengals should consider center James Daniels in first round

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INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 01: Iowa offensive lineman James Daniels speaks to the media during NFL Combine press conferences at the Indiana Convention Center on March 1, 2018 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 01: Iowa offensive lineman James Daniels speaks to the media during NFL Combine press conferences at the Indiana Convention Center on March 1, 2018 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /
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The Cincinnati Bengals look to be moving on from Russell Bodine in 2018. Could they draft James Daniels for his replacement?

Following the trade with the Buffalo Bills to acquire left tackle Cordy Glenn, the Cincinnati Bengals look to be moving on from center Russell Bodine in 2018. Taking on Glenn’s contract and the signings that the team has made including inside linebacker Preston Brown, defensive tackle Chris Baker, and re-signing punter Kevin Huber and tight end Tyler Eifert could prove that the Bengals are done spending money at the moment.

Bodine spent Sunday and Monday meeting with the Bills in his first stop to find a new home. Buffalo lost their starting center to a career-ending neck injury last season and are looking to find his replacement. With the Bengals moving on from Bodine potentially, it could mean drafting a center in the first round of the draft in April at the 21st overall pick. One of the names that stand out for that position is center James Daniels out of Iowa.

Outside of prospect guard Quenton Nelson out of Notre Dame, most of the offensive line talent seemed to be a reach at the 12th overall pick. Moving back to 21 in the draft makes it a much more likely scenario for the Bengals to take an offensive lineman with their first pick. With all of the help needed along the offensive line, Daniels seems like a great match for Cincinnati as they try and rebuild their line. Walter Football’s most recent mock has them doing just that.

NFL Draft Profile: James Daniels 

Iowa University has a reputation for developing good offensive linemen. They also have a reputation for being a little smaller as they like their linemen to be quick and able to get outside and block as well. Daniels fits all of this as he is a bit smaller than you would like in the NFL at 6’3″ and 295 pounds. What Daniels lacks in size he makes up for with speed.

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When researching the center out of Iowa you will find that every analyst talks about his ability to get to the second level. His ability to take on defensive linemen and move them to get to the linebackers at the second level is impressive. The Bengals lacked that kind of speed and talent as linebackers and defensive linemen set up camps in the backfield making it very hard for Cincinnati to run the ball. The great thing about Daniels is he is at his best when run blocking.

His recognition and great angles help him along with his speed and acceleration to get outside and beat defenders to the attack point creating a path for running backs. Daniels is an absolute mauler in the run game. With running back Joe Mixon entering his second year with the Bengals looking to take over the starting position and the teams inability to get any kind of run game going last year, Daniels could be a great pick up.

I watched three games of Daniels including Wisconsin, Michigan State, and North Texas and one thing I noticed from all of those games is his ability to call out a blitz. His recognition is remarkable at identifying the blitz and communicating it to the rest of the line.

While his speed and flexibility are remarkable making him an athletic beast, his strength and mass will need improving. He tends to get pushed back into the pocket if he doesn’t get the first contact against bull rushing nose tackles. He talked about improving his size at the Combine when he showed up at 306 pounds.

"“In college, you’re not blocking 320-, 330-, 340-pound defensive linemen, so there’s no point in being 300-plus. Now, I’m making that transition to the NFL, and I decided to gain weight. For me, it was pretty easy. You just eat like a peanut butter-and-jelly sandwich and a protein shake every night and you can gain 10 pounds in a week, two weeks easily.”"

Daniels spent most of his college career at center but is not held to just one position. He saw significant starting time in his freshmen season with Iowa at the guard position before moving to center in his sophomore season. It’s possible that he moves back over to guard at the next level but should get the chance at center first.

Cincinnati desperately needs help at both center and guard positions and could use a talent like Daniels. Grabbing a versatile lineman that can get out into space and block for Mixon would be a great move by the Bengals to get the run game back up and going. Cincinnati has not seen a 1,000-yard rusher since Jeremy Hill‘s rookie season. This pick up could be a step in that direction for 2018.

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Most draft profiles put Daniels being drafted in the early second round. If the Bengals could get him with their second pick that would be a steal. With his combine showing, however, I don’t see Daniels making it out of the first round. There are a lot of talks about him being the second best lineman in the draft behind Nelson out of Notre Dame and plenty of offensive line-needy teams.

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