KANSAS CITY, Mo. — There are six weeks until the 2021 NFL draft, and in order to prepare for this year’s draft, FOX4 Sports is doing something a little different.
Producer Robert Rimpson is counting down Brett Veach’s top 10 draft picks as the Chiefs’ general manager.
While the sample is limited to three drafts and 18 picks, this will hopefully not only provide an informative perspective on some of Veach’s best picks, but it may also give a good look at what the Chiefs do in this year’s draft.
The players are evaluated in three areas: Their play on the field, how high their remaining potential is, and their value based on where they (and other players in their class) were drafted. The players get letter grades (‘A+’ being the best, ‘F-‘ being the worst) and at the end he reflects on how the player will impact the Chiefs 2021 draft.
No. 8 — Mike Danna
Play on field
Mike Danna played fairly well for the Chiefs in 2020, working his way into a prominent role in the defensive end rotation in his first and only season. Danna played in 31% of the Chiefs defensive snaps last season, putting him behind only Frank Clark and Tanoh Kpassagnon at the DE position.
In 13 games, Danna got 25 total tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks and 6 QB hits. He showed a pretty good ability to get into the backfield and put hands on the quarterback, especially in the Week 14 game against the Miami Dolphins. His play in 2020 left Chiefs fans and likely the entire Chiefs coaching staff, with a lot of hope for what he could become.
With only one season under his belt, it’s hard to pinpoint how high Mike Danna’s ceiling can go as a player, but this far, his play on the field leads me to believe that potential could be fairly high.
Danna was the key backup for Clark from the beginning of the season, and only solidified that spot as he continued to play. Even his 3-week stint on the injured reserve didn’t deter his season much, as he snapped right back into his role in his Week 8 return.
All of that is to say injury is not yet a concern for Danna and being such an important part of the DE rotation from the jump speaks highly of his future.
The amount of power that he plays with along with his football IQ could make him very dangerous if he continues to grow, possibly propelling him into a starting DE position depending on how long Clark remains with the Chiefs.
Danna was drafted in the fifth round of the 2020 draft with the 177th overall pick. Even considering that he was selected in the bottom half of his draft class, Danna didn’t even receive a combine invite and most analysts were surprised that the Chiefs took Danna as high as they did.
Even though expectations were low for Danna, it’s safe to say Veach might have received criticism had Danna failed to impress.
But luckily for Veach, not only did he meet expectations, but Danna also went above and beyond them. He surprised people with his play his rookie season and became something of a fan favorite. Thus far, it seems like Danna was the best remaining DE in the draft, and if he continues to grow he might’ve been the best defensive player remaining.
Khalen Saunders, who was ranked No. 9 on this list, proved that he could be a key rotational piece in 2019, but wasn’t able to continue that play in 2020. Danna is a key rotational piece currently, and on top of being less of a question mark post injury, he is better at rushing the passer which is very valuable.
He’s established himself in the rotation early in his career, he bounced back after suffering an injury and he’s played above and beyond expectations. An increase in playing time along with an increase in QB pressures next season would boost his grade significantly.
But for now, for all the reasons listed above, I’m grading the Mike Danna draft pick at a “C+”
How will this affect 2021?
As part of the main rotation at DE, Danna provides some depth for the Chiefs at that position. While the Chiefs should still be looking for an edge to start opposite of Frank Clark in this year’s draft, thanks to Danna they won’t looking for depth when it comes to the mid-to late rounds.