NEW YORK — James Daniels has a decision to make, and the Iowa junior knows it, too.
The 6-foot-4, 295-pound center has received plenty of attention as the NFL early entry deadline approaches. On Wednesday morning, ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay listed Daniels as one of Iowa’s top NFL prospects should he decide to leave school early. McShay rated Daniels as the 35th player overall ― the third pick in the second round ― and second available center.
That gets your attention when you’re a prospect, and such is the case with Daniels.
“Right now I’m just focused on celebrating the win with my teammates and celebrating with them [Wednesday night],” Daniels said about 30 minutes after Iowa’s 27-20 victory against Boston College in the Pinstripe Bowl. “I have time to make a decision, but I haven’t even thought about it.”
Whether Daniels has thought about the pros every day or not at all is irrelevant right now. He has until Jan. 15 to declare for the 2018 draft, and he said he might take until Jan. 14 to decide. Daniels also has another year of eligibility should he decided to return.
“James Daniels has done a heck of a job for us,” Iowa offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz said on a conference call last week. “He’s been a good football player. He’s done all the things we’ve asked him to do. Certainly he’s earned the right to consider an NFL career. He’s going to have to make a decision on what’s best for him.
“But what’s best for our football program is to have him back. We hope to have him back. If he is, I expect him to continue to be a good football player for us.”
Daniels has submitted his paperwork for evaluation but hasn’t received it back.
“Even if I did get feedback, I wouldn’t want to hear before the bowl game,” Daniels said. “I was just focused on doing what I had to do [Wednesday].
“There’s pros to staying, and there’s pros to leaving. There’s cons to staying, and there’s cons to leaving.”
Daniels joined the program in the spring of 2015. His older brother, LeShun Daniels, also played at Iowa. James Daniels started two games at guard in 2015 and became Iowa’s full-time center in 2016. The last two seasons, Daniels has started 23 games at center. He was named honorable mention All-Big Ten this year.
Losing Daniels would be a big blow for the Hawkeyes. Senior guard Sean Welsh already graduated, as have injured tackles Boone Myers and Ike Boettger. Daniels turned 20 in September, but he said age won’t impact his decision. He’s also close to graduating from the University of Iowa with a biology degree.