Broncos Free Agency Scouting Report: TE Owen Daniels


We’re well into free agency and the Broncos have made some moves to their tight end position that will leave the group looking a bit different than last year.

Throughout the process, the Broncos have seen Julius Thomas head to Jacksonville and Jacob Tamme leave his long-time quarterback Peyton Manning for Matt Ryan.

After re-signing Virgil Green and preceding the signing of Joe Don Duncan, the Broncos went out and signed Ravens free agent Owen Daniels.

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Daniels is a guy that has played his whole nine-year career with Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak in some capacity. For the first eight years it was in Houston with Kubiak as the Texans’ head coach. Last year it was in Baltimore where Kubiak was the offensive coordinator. It made complete sense that the Broncos would bring in Daniels to get the duo back together.

Now all Broncos fans have to worry about is how much the two-time Pro Bowler has left in the tank at 32 years old. I questioned this myself, dating back to last year’s preseason. All I saw on my Twitter timeline last year regarding Daniels was how lifeless his legs looked. This isn’t something you want to hear about a guy your team will be leaning on in go-to situations. I had to find out for myself.

I watched a couple of Daniels’s games from last year, utilizing my Game Rewind subscription via I watched two games in which he was heavily targeted so I could see a good amount of him as a receiver as well as a blocker.

The first game I watched was in week seven against the Falcons. Daniels was targeted nine times and caught six passes for 58 yards and a touchdown. The next game I reviewed was his next game a couple weeks later in week nine (knee) in Pittsburgh. He was again targeted nine times and caught six passes for 53 yards.

Daniels has been known mostly for his receiving ability, so let’s start there.

A bit to my surprise, he still has some quickness left in those veteran legs of his.

Don’t get me wrong, he won’t be getting huge separation on every play and Lawrence Timmons is by no means known for his coverage skills. But still, this was a pleasant surprise after the perception of Daniels in preseason last year was that his career was on life support.

Daniels is a very smart route runner. This shouldn’t be that big of a surprise for two reasons. First of all, he’s been playing for nine years under an offense that’s called for him to run many routes. You don’t last as long as he does as a receiver without knowing what you’re doing.

Secondly, he has to win somehow, right? He’s not fast so he won’t be burning anyone over the top. And his quickness, while present, isn’t something that he’ll be able to rely on every play.

These next two clips demonstrate how smart of a route runner he is and some other aspects that help him win as a receiver.

Daniels isn’t creating huge separation on every play, and he doesn’t need to. He’s a tough player that uses contact to his advantage. He will press his man and then cut the opposite way to create a window for his quarterback to throw to.

He won’t offer much in terms of yards after catch, but he’ll be a reliable guy to go to in the red zone and on third downs.

In the couple games I watched Owen Daniels, he didn’t drop a pass. But per Pro Football Focus he dropped five of his 72 targets, a drop rate of 9.43% (28th in the league among TE’s who got at least 25% of their QB’s targets). In the preceding years, his drop rates were: 7.69% (24th), 8.82% (17th), 3.57% (8th), and 9.52% (26th). For comparison’s sake, Julius Thomas’s drop rates the last two years were 8.51% (22nd), 5.80% (12th).

Speaking of Julius Thomas, the one thing he could not get going in his four years in Denver was his blocking. Sometimes it was an effort thing, sometimes it was a technique thing. But all of the time it was a just can’t get it done thing.

With Owen Daniels, at the very least you will get competency as a blocker in the run game.

I thought the play above did a pretty good job of showing Daniels as a blocker in a nutshell. His man almost touched the running back after coming from the weak side of the play. However, Daniels stayed with his block the whole way and fought to gain leverage. This is something foreign from the Broncos receiving tight end for the last four years.

In a Gary Kubiak offense, the tight end will be asked to be a well rounded player that is capable to both catch passes and block defenders. Owen Daniels can do both to a certain degree. If he couldn’t, he wouldn’t have been playing for Kubiak for each year of his career. Daniels is a guy that fans will come to appreciate as time goes on.

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