The Kansas City Chiefs added six draft picks in the 2020 NFL draft and a number of undrafted free agents too. Several of those rookies made contributions during the course of the 2020 regular season and postseason. One player on the defensive front seven had a surprising rookie campaign.
Let’s take a look at Mike Danna’s rookie season and see what we can project for the future.
AP Photo/Reed Hoffmann
AP Photo/Steve Luciano
Danna earned the trust of the coaching staff early on in Kansas City, which is pretty rare for a fifth-round rookie draft pick. Steve Spagnuolo and Brendan Daly raved about his maturity and preparation leading up to the season. The impression that he made was even more apparent after he opened the season playing 29% of the defensive snaps for the team.
By Week 2, Danna had already recorded his first sack and was seeing an uptick in snaps in the edge rotation. He particularly stood out as a run defender and showed great discipline when setting the edge. Unfortunately, Danna’s early-season success would be derailed by injury.
In Week 4, Danna suffered a hamstring injury, which in turn landed him on injured reserve for a total of three weeks. When Danna was activated from injured reserve ahead of Week 8, he picked up right where he had left off. He’d go on to make his first career start against the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 17, but he only recorded two tackles in the game.
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Danna is going to have an opportunity to carve out an even bigger role in the edge rotation in 2021. Alex Okafor’s contract voids on Feb. 23, making him a free agent. The team is also expected to move on from former second-round draft pick Tanoh Kpassagnon in free agency. Taco Charlton is also a free agent, though, I’d expect the Chiefs to try and bring him back for 2021.
There will still be a lot of snaps needing to be accounted for, including a starter opposite Frank Clark. I’m not sure that Danna has earned the right to that opportunity yet, but he is the most experienced player in the system that’s currently on the roster. Given his standout season as a rookie, a second-year jump wouldn’t be out of the question. He’ll certainly get a chance to prove that he’s worthy of the starting spot opposite Clark, but I’d expect him to maintain his rotational role.
AP Photo/Michael Conroy
We’ll debut our rookie season reviews over the next several weeks, with the exception of Lucas Niang given the opt out. Check back here for hyperlinks when they’re available.
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