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Iowa center James Daniels has emerged as a likely first-round selection.

Iowa center James Daniels emerges as likely NFL first-round draft pick

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ANSWER: Former Iowa center James Daniels has emerged as the top center available by most NFL draft analysts and a potential first-round selection. Daniels has the dimensions (6-foot-3⅜, 306 pounds) plus the skills to play at a high level for many years. He’s also only 20 years old.

Daniels wowed scouts at the NFL combine. He won the 20-yard shuttle in 4.4 seconds, finished second in the 3-cone drill in 7.29 seconds, tied for sixth in the vertical jump at 30.5 inches and was 10th in the broad jump at 9 feet. With his short-area quickness plus his extraordinary arm length at 33¾ inches, Daniels has everything offensive line coaches want.

“I’ll tell you what, who I just love as a football player is James Daniels,” NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah said. “I just love what he brings to the table from Iowa. I think he’s a plug-and-play center. I think he can play either of the guard spots if you wanted him to.”

How did Daniels get overlooked by fans at Iowa? Part of it was his age. He came to Iowa at age 17 and played only three seasons. He was solid as a first-year starter in 2016 but didn’t come across as dominant that year or in 2017. For offensive linemen, buildup is important for reputation. Also, Iowa had some dreadful rushing performances, which always reflect upon the offensive line. Of course that had more to do with two senior offensive tackles experiencing season-ending injuries than what Daniels did or didn’t do.

If Daniels elected to return for his senior year and he was discussed this summer as a favorite for the Rimington Trophy as the nation’s best center, there’s no question fans would have celebrated Daniels a little more. But his decision to leave for the draft caught fans by surprise. It almost was like they blinked and Daniels was gone.

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