KC Chiefs: Can Mike Danna be more than a role player in 2022?

Michael Danna has had a relatively quiet career so far for the Kansas City Chiefs. He was a fifth-round selection in the 2020 NFL Draft, and to be honest, I had never heard of him at that point. I was aware of many prospects in the pre-draft process and his name never showed on my computer screen in any fashion. To be fair, many analysts may have shared the same thoughts. According to Arif Hasan’s 2020 Consensus Big Board, Mike Danna’s name did not appear in the Top 300.

Danna only played one season at the University of Michigan. Before that, he played at Central Michigan for three seasons through 2018 before transferring to Ann Arbor. He earned high marks for his work ethic from area scouts and even gained 15 pounds just to play for the Wolverines. At Michigan in 2019, across 12 games, Danna had three sacks and 38 total tackles.

In his rookie season with the Chiefs in 2020, Danna played in 16 total games and had 2.5 sacks and 29 total tackles. In his sophomore year in 2021, Danna recorded 4 sacks and 29 total tackles in 20 games. According to Pro Football Focus ($), Danna recorded PFF overall defensive grades of 63.2 and 63.8 (with 60.0 considered “average”) in 2020 and 2021, respectively, to go along with run defense grades of 66.8 and 62.6 and pass-rush grades of 52.8 and 58.2 across those seasons. He played 389 defensive snaps in 2020 and 586 in 2021.

Can Mike Danna breakout in 2022 and develop into more than just a rotational edge defender for the Chiefs?

For a fifth-round pick, Danna has provided solid value, but at the same time, he definitely hasn’t proven himself to be a starting-caliber player at this point. The Chiefs are a team going through a transition phase and are young at a lot of positions, but they also have question marks at some positions as well. One of the areas with a lot of questions is the team’s pass rush—not just as a whole but on the edge specifically. They currently have Frank Clark, rookie George Karlaftis, Joshua Kaindoh, Danna, and a couple of other players on the roster bubble. That’s not going to cut it.

Frank Clark has never been a high-level player in Kansas City except in short bursts (e.g. a postseason run). Karlaftis is a rookie, and Kaindoh saw very little action his rookie year last season. Danna, similar to Karlaftis and Kaindoh, is unproven and can’t be relied upon as a starter. I am a fan of Danna but admittedly there is a ceiling to his game. Could he develop into a 10+ sack edge defender? Sure, but it’s highly unlikely.

Danna’s likely ceiling is as a decent rotational edge defender who is solid against the run and can be relied upon for 5-7 sacks every season. I don’t believe he has the traits of a player capable of being a consistent starter, like explosiveness or power/twitch. I think he tops out slightly better than last season. He’ll be a decent option for when the starters are out for a series of plays or in case of a short-term injury, but I think the Chiefs were wise to use a first-round pick on an edge defender. I also think that they need to bring in another guy to supplement the depth.

The fact that the Chiefs are an injury away from Danna or Kaindoh being a starter (for any amount of time) should be scary to the Chiefs. It’s okay to believe in Danna as a depth player, but in my opinion, Kansas City would benefit greatly from bringing in another quality player, like Robert Quinn for example, to bolster the edge of the defensive line.

What do you think of Danna? Do you think he can break out into a great pass rusher this season? Feel free to let me know in the comment section or on Twitter (@StrozinskyLucas).