The Washington Commanders selected Utah offensive lineman Braeden Daniels with the No. 188 overall pick of the 2023 NFL Draft. Here are five things to know about one of the newest members of the offensive front.
1. He was a two-sport athlete in high school.
Daniels did not receive as much hype as other high school prospects. A three-star recruit out of Hebron High School, Daniels was the No. 169 prospect in the state and No. 72 prospect at his position in Texas, according to his ESPN high school recruiting page. With that said, he was still an above average athlete.
Daniels' metrics point to how talented he was early in his playing career. He ran a 5.19 40-yard dash, recorded a 4.76 20-yard shuttle and jumped 28.9 inches in the vertical leap, all three of which were among the top third in ESPN's database.
On top of being a First Team all-district selection in 2016, Daniels also competed in track and field, specifically the javelin throw, discus throw and shot put, earning all-district honors.
"It was fun going out there like our other teammates and being able to compete at a different level in a different sport," Daniels told Dan Clark. "I got a chance to do some javelin throws too at a track meet before. It's a different experience. I wasn't a spinner in the shot put, but I was a glider."
Daniels initially "wasn't going to do anything" with track and field, but he learned to get the most of the experience because it could help him become a well-rounded athlete.
"Take advantage of all the experiences and all the stuff that you can do," Daniels said. "It helps me become a better football player. Whatever sport, whether it's basketball or football, will teach you something. Like if it's soccer, it's foot coordination. You are going to get at least something from a sport. It will help you in the long run."
Check out the top photos of former Utah offensive lineman Braeden Daniels during his college career. (via The Associated Press)
2. He has played all over the offensive line.
After initially committing to Illinois, Daniels ultimately enrolled at Utah to continue his playing career. After redshirting his freshman season, he became a three-time starter with 43 starts in 49 appearances. Daniels said his versatility was his biggest strength, and the Utes certainly took advantage of that.
Daniels' first role as a starter came in 2019, when he played the entire season at left guard. Two years later, he was a full-time starter once again, but spent most of his time at right tackle, where he earned a career-high 84.4 offensive grade from Pro Football Focus and a Second Team All-Pac-12 selection.
The following year, Daniels moved to left tackle and was just as impressive, earning First Team all-conference honors for helping the Utes' offense average 217.6 rushing yards per game.
And while he wasn't listed as a center on the team's website, he has some experience at that position as well.
"I have the ability to play it and I feel confident in my ability to snap and all that," Daniels said. "That's something I'm still learning and getting used to."
Daniels will likely not compete to be the Commanders' starting center, but it is a good skill to have if the team needs it.
3. He's a solid pass protector.
Regardless of where he played, Daniels' production was relatively consistent, particularly when it came to pass protection.
Over the course of his five-year career at Utah, Daniels only allowed five sacks and five quarterback hits in 1,463 pass blocking sets. What's more, most of those sacks came during his first year as a starter in 2019; since then, he has only allowed two sacks in three seasons.
Over the past three seasons, Daniels has either been the first- or second-highest graded offensive lineman on Utah's offense when it comes to pass-blocking, according to PFF.
Washington has ranked near the bottom of the league in sacks allowed since 2020. Not all of that is on the offensive line, but having a quality pass protector like Daniels will help alleviate those issues.
4. He's learned life lessons from football.
Daniels has made a career out of playing football, but he has earned more than just a way to pay bills. He's also learned valuable lessons that he will carry with him for the rest of his life.
"It gives me different perspectives on life and being able to have different relationships with all the people on our team," Daniels told Clark. "Being an only child, I didn't have a brother or sister. In a way, it's a brotherhood for me. I have brothers and people that I can call and pick their minds and get their perspectives on life."
Daniels also said he was shy growing up and would "sit back and watch," rather than being a more active participant. Football helped him change that, and he learned that "if I want something, you are going to work hard enough for it and go and get it."
"Honestly, the biggest thing that football has taught me is to follow your dreams but also how to fight through adversity and work towards your goals and ambitions," Daniels said. "Football has helped me create a work ethic."
5. He'll start off competing at left guard.
Of all the questions surrounding the Commanders' offensive line, the one at left guard is perhaps the biggest. Prior to the draft, head coach Ron Rivera said that players like Chris Paul and Saahdiq Charles will compete for the spot, but there haven't been many answers since then.
After Day 3 of the draft, Rivera said that Daniels will be part of that competition, but the coaching staff wants to see where he fits best on the offensive line.
"Would Braeden have an opportunity? Yeah, but you know, we're gonna see where he fits as far as tackle is concerned," Rivera said. "And then we'll take a look at the guard stuff, but tackle is something that we really like. A lot of athleticism there."
While there are several things about Daniels that Washington likes, Rivera also admitted that he is a "raw talent," so there will need to be some time dedicated towards fine-tuning his skill set.
And they believe there is a path to molding a solid player in time.
"Listening to Travelle [Wharton], one of the things Travelle felt is that this is a young man, if we can get his footwork straight, we think he has a chance to, to be a contributor."