Does a nice job not only reading the quarterback, but feels routes develop around him extremely well and has the type of fluidity to cleanly get out of his breaks and range on the throw. Possesses good ball skills in the secondary and knows how to go up, maintain concentration and come down with the tough grab. Lacks great straight-line speed, looks more like a low/mid 4.5 guy. However, consistently is able to get good jumps on the football and play fast because of his overall instincts. Exhibits good balance and fluidity in his drop. However, needs to clean up his footwork a bit. Doesn’t really sit into his back-pedal off the line and/or stay real compact, which at times will take away from his initial burst when trying to click and close.
Diagnoses the run very well from the deep half. Does a nice job reading his keys, staying patient and quickly attacking the line of scrimmage. Exhibits the ability to slip blocks well, even inside the box, and can generate some power on contact when asked to tackle downhill. Breaks down well in the open field and is a secure wrap-up guy. However, will occasionally overrun some plays in both the run and pass game, but for the most part is a solid open-field tackler.
Impression: His ability to consistently locate the football, fluidly open up his hips and have range in the secondary is a skill set that is demanding quite the high price in the NFL right now. Lacks great speed, but plays fast because of his instincts and looks like a potential ball-hawking type safety at the next level."
McDaniel continued his rise up the depth chart in 2008, posting 77 tackles and an interception while playing rover (safety/linebacker hybrid) for the Tigers. He enjoyed his best game against Nebraska in the Gator Bowl, registering eight tackles and a forced fumble, which he gathered up and returned 28-yards for a touchdown - the first fumble recovery for a defensive score in Clemson bowl-game history.
While McDaniel had certainly flashed in his first two seasons, no one could have predicted his magical 2009 campaign - a 102 tackle, eight interception season that earned him consensus All-American recognition. McDaniel's breakout campaign was especially impressive considering that he was asked to move from rover to a more traditional strong safety position. His eight interceptions ranked second in the entire country.
While not the consistent threat as a senior he was a year earlier, McDaniel remained one of the ACC's most productive defenders. Through the regular season, in fact, he led Clemson with 73 tackles and another four interceptions.
McDaniel lacks the fluidity to cover the entire field. His instincts, reliable open-field tackling and impressive ball skills make him one of the few senior safeties in this draft worthy of top 100 consideration.
Read & React: Very good diagnosistic skills. Is allowed some flexibility to roam in this defense and shows very good diagnosis skills. Flies up to support the run, showing the ability to shoot the gap and make plays behind the line of scrimmage. Can be initially fooled by play-action, but shows very good brakes, as well as the agility to turn and quick acceleration to recover quickly. Shows very good route-recognition due to his time in the film-room. Is seemingly always around the ball.
Man Coverage: Asked to drop down and cover the slot receiver, at times, in this defense. Quick feet, good balance and surprising acceleration for the safety position. Doesn't change directions fluidly due to stiff hips, but accelerates quickly out his breaks and has good straight-line speed. As a result he is able to generate a late burst to close as the ball is in flight. Quick, active hands to bat away or intercept the pass.
Zone Coverage: A bit high in his backpedal, but generates good depth on his initial drop. Good lateral agility and gains speed quickly when changing directions. Does a nice job of recognizing routes and drifting laterally to remain in between the quarterback and his assignment. Reacts quickly to the thrown pass. Looks to help out his teammates.
Closing/Recovery: Good instincts, speed and a late burst as the ball is in flight make this one of his stronger areas. Locates the ball quickly and will abandon his prior assignment quickly once he sees the ball is headed elsewhere. Puts himself in position to be the fortunate teammate for a fumble recovery or tipped interception. High-points the ball, showing an impressive vertical jump and good timing.
Run Support: His experience as a linebacker/safety hybrid shows in his comfort near the line of scrimmage. Shows very good vision to locate the football when in traffic, as well as the balance and agility to keep his feet through the trash. Good speed and pursuit angles when shooting gaps downhill or in pursuit. Plays good team defense - is willing to break outside to the sideline to keep contain, funneling the ball-carrier back towards the rest of the defense.
Tackling: A reliable open-field tackler, who demonstrates shows some creativity in how he gets the ball-carrier to the ground. Likes to supply the big hit to intimidate his opponent. Willing to drop his shoulder and explode into the ball-carrier, creating some big hits. Generates some explosiveness as a wrap-up hitter, as well, opting to throw the ball-carrier to the ground, at times. Shows no hesitancy in taking on bigger ball-carriers.
Intangibles: Had a rough childhood and had to do some real maturing while at Clemson … Was raised by his grandmother and godmother … Has little contact with his biological parents. His mother, reportedly, has been arrested over 50 times … Was charged with high and aggravated assault on his former girlfriend in 2008. Accepted a pre-trial intervention and community service … Has since matured into an Honor Roll student and team captain. In 2009, he won a Vickery Hall award for academic improvement, earning a 3.25 GPA in the first semester and 3.0 in the second, and was named to the 2009-10 ACC Academic Honor Roll. Majoring in Sociology and will graduate in the winter of 2010 … Routinely spends extra hours on his own in the film-room during the season.
Ball Skills: Another definite strength would be McDaniel's ability to make a play on the ball. He had 15 interceptions while at Clemson, including 12 the past 2 years. He has confidence in his hands to make the tough catch, even in traffic. Wants to come down with the ball every time.
Instincts: Amazing instincts on the football field. He knows a play is happening before anybody else and can recognize the routes going on around him. This has to do with him living in the film room. During his time at Clemson, he has really figured out how to "break down" film and know what he's looking for. There is no need for luck when you know what's coming.
Pass Coverage: He is not a sideline to sideline Safety prospect. He does give you a strong leader in the secondary that can see the field and communicate which plays/coverages are coming. As mentioned above, his instincts come into play heavily in coverage. It's true he is somewhat slower than others at the position, but his ability to click and close after recognizing the play helps tremendously.
Run Support: He is a beast when it comes to stopping the run. Will probably make a living inside the box at the next level for some team. Has a good ability to get off blocks and make a play. Has the size and ability to make a big hit.
Speed: Won't wow you with his speed, but has enough to make a play. Relies on his instincts to make up for his shortcomings in this area. More quick than fast, in my opinion.
Tackling: Is a solid tackler. Makes a hit on the ball carrier and wraps up. Won't be shook too many times due to his balance and ability to break down before contact. Has minor issues with over pursuit in the run game from time to time, but for the most part takes correct angles to the ball carrier.
Final Word: I understand he has had an off the field issue, but that was three years ago. He has been a model citizen ever since. He is a true leader on and off the field who has learned from his previous mistakes. Wants to be the best and is willing to put in the hard work to get there. Ball Hawking safeties who can also stop the run aren't easy to come by. For that reason I think DeAndre McDaniel is the first SS prospect off the board in the early to mid 2nd round."
DeAndre McDaniel can make an immediate impact.
McDaniel started as a strong safety as a freshman, only to move to the weak side linebacker as a sophomore, where he continued making plays. He finished his Clemson career as playing the safety position both his junior and senior seasons, as he makes his path to the 2011 NFL Draft.
McDaniel has been blessed with exceptional athleticism, and versatility. Switching back and forth from safety to linebacker only helps his argument in that aspect. He has a very nice blend of size and speed, and can is a very solid wrap up tackler. He makes plays in the box quite a bit almost like another linebacker, and he can blitz quite well. He excels in zone coverage, and can also play free safety if needed as his speed and ability to break on the football is fantastic. He is a smart player who is also very instinctive. He’s great in reading the quarterback and baiting them as well.
McDaniel could use some work in man coverage. While he can be physical, sometimes he can be a bit too physical causing and interference penalty, sometimes being a bit too aggressive. He needs to get quicker when flipping his hips, improving his change of direction skills. Character concerns are somewhat of a concern after he was accused in 2008 of choking his girlfriend and punching her in the head. He enrolled in a pre-trial intervention program involving first time offenders of the law, and all charges were dropped.
Due to the lack of elite safeties in this class, it’s possible that McDaniel falls a bit. However, I still see his range as a late first/early second round grade, most likely between picks 20-40. Tampa Bay, Indianapolis, Philadelphia, New York (Jets), Baltimore and Chicago will all give him a look in the first. If he makes it to the second round, Buffalo, Cincinnati, Denver, Cleveland, Tennessee and Dallas will all be hard pressed not to select McDaniel.
NFL Comparison: Donte Whitner"
Positive: Aggressive defensive back with good size. Athletic, works well with cornerbacks, and a hard hitter who intimidates anyone that comes over the middle. Quick up the field in run defense, shows a burst to the action, and has a good head for the ball. Physically strong, wraps up tackling, and brings opponents down on initial contact. Displays solid closing and recovery speed.
Negative: Does not show a great sense of timing, is slow reacting in coverage, and blows assignments on occasion. Gets caught out of position at times and relies on his speed to recover from mistakes.
Analysis: McDaniel was a solid college defensive back who has been overrated in many circles based on his production numbers. He has the athleticism and football skills to be used as a zone or strong safety at the next level, but he will struggle as a centerfielder if required to go sideline to sideline."
Negatives: Still raw, still learning the position... Will need a year or two to learn in the NFL... Must work on technique... Needs to adjust better to the ball as it is in the air... Needs to be more consistent in coverage and work on covering deep passes... Man to man coverage skills need work... Hip movement and backpedal need work... 40-time will be critical... Straight line speed could be a concern."
Weaknesses: Will gamble in coverage and some times takes poor angles. Doesn't always make the best decisions in coverage or off the field (was suspended for four games early in 2010.) Sometimes prefers the K.O. hit too much, and fails to wrap up. Not an elite coverage guy, and not that big for an enforcer type in the run game.
Projection: Solid 2nd rounder."
Heading into 2010, NFL scouts wanted to see what McDaniel could do as the leader of the secondary. The Clemson pass defense is certainly not as effective this season compared to last, but McDaniel's decision to return for his senior season is paying off. McDaniel is having a fine senior season and should be near the top (if not at the top) of the list of strong safeties taken in the 2011 draft."
2010: After learning he would likely be a second-round choice in the 2010 NFL Draft, McDaniel followed C.J. Spiller’s lead from a year ago and decided to return to Clemson for his senior campaign. If the safety performs during his senior year at the same level he did a year ago and answers the questions regarding his character (arrested for assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature, charged with a misdemeanor and placed on a pre-trial intervention program), he ought to be a lock for the first round. One of the most well-rounded safety prospects in college football, not only does McDaniel have excellent physical attributes; his game instincts, practice habits and film study are all truly remarkable. New to the safety position, McDaniel was recruited to Clemson to play linebacker but his skill set just matched up too perfectly for the safety position. Last year, his first year as a full-time starter at safety, McDaniel was equally intimidating in the run game as he is in the pass game. The Clemson Tiger should be the top strong safety in the 2011 NFL Draft, with the versatility to play free safety as well.
2009: It’s no accident that he often finds himself in the right place to make a play. His anticipation and closing speed are second to none. He flat out attacks the ball if it’s anywhere near him and usually comes up with a big interception or deflection thanks to his extraordinary ball skills, which allow him to scoop low throws up from his ankles if he has to. His aggressiveness also shines through in the way he squares up on ball carriers and lays the wood on his helpless adversaries. The biggest concern with the collegiate star is his off-the-field behavior. Previously, he’s shown the tendency to use his intensity and combative spirit for the wrong reasons toward women. Let’s hope he’s turned the corner in that regard. There isn’t much not to like about McDaniel on the field. His intense study habits in breaking down film and learning about the opposition’s tendencies really comes through in his performance. McDaniel's intelligence, passion, and blinding quickness in stepping in front of receivers in pass coverage put him on the short list of top safeties in this year’s draft if he decides to come out."
I don't think it's possible for me to come across as objective about DeAndre McDaniel.
His Long Speed is what most analysts dog him about: 4.63 "40" at the Combine. The prevailing "wisdom", of course, is that that time speaks to limited Range, and will compromise his ability to become an effective Safety at the Pro level.
My thinking is that very few of the alleged experts who cite that alleged wisdom could quote Rodney Harrison's "40" time.
So much for the crippling effects of a 4.63 "40".
More to the point, DeAndre McDaniel plays fast. I will put his Processing Speed and Diagnostic Skills up against any Safety in this Draft Class. His raw cerebral talent is outstanding, and his Instincts are phenomenal, but both pale in comparison to his relentless and implacable dedication to reading tape, to analyzing, to training, in short: to his pursuit of mastering this Great Game.
He has explosive Verticity ~ his ability to Turn + Burn Fast + Fluidly is amazing. Combined with his extraordinary Diagnostic Skills and Processing Speed, he has forged an utterly fascinating ability to anticipate where the play is headed ~ to consistently be that vital, critical, absolutely devastating half step ahead of everyone else.
He navigates Traffic with exceptional skill, surprising Speed, and relentless Fury: He is terrifying, out there!!
And he arrives with all the rage of HELL: This is a guy who genuinely LOVES to blast people!! He plays this Game with a GREAT deal of Ferocity and Passion. And yet this is a guy who tackles with consistently disciplined technique: a sure, wrap up tackler. I find that combination of traits ~ Ferocity and Discipline ~ VERY rare.
And he's a tremendous team mate, as well: Very disciplined in sticking to assignments, yet this is no small minded "Not My Section" Prima Donna. Quite the opposite. The very instant that it's clear that the ball's not coming his way, he immediately heads the ball's way...and often an half second ahead of everyone else. Again: his instincts, his Diagnostic Skills, and his Processing Speed...are astonishing.
On top of all that, he's got a Sixth Sense for the FootBall, tremendous anticipation of it trajectory, exceptional timing of his leaps, and enormous hands. It's no coincidence that he's racked up 12 Interceptions, the last two years!!
This is an exceptional young man, a guy who has worked his way forward from an awful childhood, who made some mistakes in college...and who has emerged as an Honor Roll student, a team Captain, and an amazing, inspiring Leader.
Looking back, I have run rampant about DeAndre McDaniel...And it has been a pleasure. I wish him the very best.
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