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Dennis Daley is probably going to play guard for the Carolina Panthers

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The Panthers got serious in this draft about upgrading their protection, and further reinforced that depth by selecting Dennis Daley in the sixth round of the 2019 NFL Draft.

NCAA Football: Senior Bowl Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

The offensive line is a position group that the Carolina Panthers have rarely had any stability on, dating back to the years leading up to drafting Cam Newton. Most of the reason for that has been a lack of consistent investment, or at least quality investment, through the draft leading to a heavy reliance on free agents and UDFAs.

Drafting Greg Little in the second round of this years draft was a major step in the right direction to sure up the left tackle position, which has been the most neglected of all. Later in the draft, after trading out of their original sixth round pick, the Panthers selected Dennis Daley, a left tackle out of South Carolina. Daley is not a particularly athletic player, but he does have a few nasty moves. He is likely best suited at the NFL level to playing guard.

After diving into some of his game film and combine results, here are the impressions I have of him as a prospect.

Athleticism and intangibles: Poor

Dennis Daley had a very poor combine performance, highlighted by an abysmal 20 reps on the bench press and less than stellar results in both vertical and broad jumps, which are generally good indicators of lower body power and explosiveness. His overall SPARQ score of 90.9 places him in the bottom 15.5% range of all NFL offensive linemen. While power issues don’t seem to present themselves in live action, his agility shortcomings are readily apparent in several snaps. Physically, Daley does not have the arm length that Little does, however beyond that he would fit the general mold of a prototypical tackle.

Technical skill: Above average

Despite his lackluster combine results, functional strength doesn’t appear to be problematic for Daley. His hand usage on many occasions is quite good, and often violent. Check out this chop...

That’s mean even by boxing standards. He shares a lot in common with Panthers second round pick Greg Little by effectively setting a powerful base to fend off any would be bull-rushers, and using leverage to his advantage. The low man usually wins in the trenches, and Daley appears to understand that. He also is a good finisher with a pretty good motor, often looking to make an extra block.

Unfortunately, when matched up against speed rushers, Daley has a tendency to over set himself to the outside, leaving him vulnerable to an inside move. You see it above against Josh Allen, and again against Clelin Ferrell in the game against Clemson, his toughest assignment of the year. This lack of recovery ability and side to side agility is the main reason I think he’ll project as a guard in the NFL.

Run blocking: Average

On the whole, South Carolina did not seem to run behind Daley very much, but he had a few good reps that stood out as good individual efforts, especially when tasked with down blocking where he can get his ample frame going hard downhill in a limited area. When tasked with a key block on off-tackle runs, he succeeded with mixed results, not for lack of aggression. The absolute perfect example of this starts at the 2:24 mark in the following video against Florida, where he has an excellent rep followed by a piss poor one on two runs to his side, both matched up on Jachai Polite.

This exemplifies another reason why I think he’d be a better guard than tackle in the NFL, he works better in limited spaces versus out in space. My chief worry with him playing guard once again goes back to his athletic limitations. South Carolina did not ask him to pull very much at all, and I think there’s a good reason for that.

Pass blocking: Above average

Daley seems to be able to match power on power with just about any rusher he faces. Going back to his technique, he plays with a good wide base and excellent use of leverage. He seeks to engage blockers rather than letting them get into too close, and employs a fairly wide set of moves using his hands to maintain an advantage. Against Clemson, Clelin Ferrell gets the best of him early, but he settles in during the second half to have a decent game.

Still, where he will fall short in the NFL is his ability to handle the speed rush. He certainly isn’t someone you can leave alone on an island and forget about. Greg Little is far superior to him in that regard. Still, I think if you take away that speed rush and ask him to go heads up or on double teams against defensive tackles, he would probably find pretty good success.

Conclusion

Based on what I’ve seen, Daley is at best a backup swing tackle for the Panthers, but more likely to contribute as depth at guard. As he develops, he could figure more into the conversation as a potential starter at left guard, but he will need to gain a lot of strength to win in a more run oriented offense. Overall, I see him as a multi year project that hopefully won’t have too much asked of him this season, but I think he is pretty likely to make the roster.