The 2020 NFL Draft came and went. The Atlanta Falcons may have drafted 6 players but in all, they’ve added 26 young men to the roster when you combine undrafted free agents. Their goal is to make the Falcons practice squad or better yet, make the Falcons’ final 53-man roster. Under head coach Dan Quinn, UDFAs like Brian Poole, Olamide Zaccheaus and Sharrod Neasman have all beaten the odds against them by making their way onto the Falcons roster. Most notably, offensive tackle Ryan Schraeder was undrafted in 2013 and went on to have a successful career in Atlanta.
One player who could follow a similar path is newly signed fullback Mikey Daniel out of South Dakota State University. Listed at 6’2, 235 lbs, Daniel totaled 1,728 rushing yards and 30 total touchdowns for the Jackrabbits from 2016-2019. Watching his film, you’ll quickly notice his best attributes are his powerful running, tremendous pass protection and athletic ability.
I had the opportunity to talk to Mikey Daniel and do a little Q&A in the hopes of allowing fans to get to know him a little better.
How did South Dakota State help you achieve your goal of becoming an NFL player?
Walking on at South Dakota State shaped me and prepared me for this uphill battle. I have always been an underdog, and I pride myself on that.
Favorite moment playing at South Dakota State?
My favorite moment playing at SDSU was when we beat NDSU for the first time in like 10 years at our place. That was a fun day!
Is there any certain NFL player you model your game on?
I would consider myself a mixture of C.J. Ham and Kyle Juszczyk. Those are the two fullbacks that I try to model myself after.
What do you like most about football in general?
I like that football has given me so many great opportunities as well as introducing me to some of my best friends in life.
What do you as a player bring to the Atlanta Falcons?
The Falcons, and the city of Atlanta in general is getting a tremendously hard worker. I am a team first guy and I am willing to do whatever I have to do to help us win as many ball games as possible.
How familiar are you with the Falcons’ franchise?
To be honest, I wasn’t terribly familiar with the franchise until recently. Obviously, I loved watching Michael Vick play but other than that I didn’t know much.
Have you discussed with the Falcons’ staff what your role in Atlanta could be?
Yeah, they see me as a guy with good “position flexibility” I will be used in a number of ways – running back, fullback, special teams etc.
Did you have offers to sign with other teams, and what made the Falcons seem like a good fit for you?
Yeah, I had some other offers – but when Coach Quinn and Coach Parmalee reached out to me the week of the draft, we just connected well, and I knew I wanted to be in Atlanta.
The video above displays some of Mike Daniels’ best moments. Key things that stick out is his pass protection and special teams skills, which will quickly benefit the Falcons. Daniel is a powerful runner who seemingly always fights for the extra yard rather than get down. Additionally, his athleticism for a fullback is astounding, as you can see him constantly hurdling opponents.
At South Dakota State, Daniel served as a short-yardage back and feature back for the Jackrabbits, but Daniel has now converted to fullback in the NFL. The Falcons currently have a fullback in Keith Smith, who signed a 3-year extension with the team in March. That leaves his role uncertain, but it’s possible he can hang on as an emergency fullback, special teamer, and fifth running back if all goes well.
With Daniel, the Falcons view a talented fullback who can easily transition to running back, and standout on special teams. Being an UDFA is experiencing an upward climb that has the odds stacked against you, and Mikey Daniel knows that. But as he said, he’s been an underdog all of his life.