The Kansas City Chiefs selected Michigan defensive end Mike Danna in the fifth round of the 2020 NFL Draft with pick No. 177. When Danna was selected, there was a collective “Huh?” reaction from the fans around Chiefs Kingdom. He wasn’t a well-known player and only started one game during his time at Michigan, though he was a significant part of their defensive line rotation.
Before transferring to Michigan, he had a solid career at Central Michigan. His progression from his first to final season with CMU was significant. During his last season with the Chippewas, Danna recorded 66 total tackles, including 15 tackles for loss. He added 9.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.
There were several defensive ends in front of Danna on the depth chart in Kansas City when he was drafted, but Danna impressed the coaching staff and was able to work his way into the rotation early in the season. During his NFL debut in Week 1, he was able to see the field for 29% of the defensive snaps.
In Week 2, he was able to pick up the first sack of his career in a big moment on third down against the Los Angeles Chargers. He was very impressive with his run defense through the first three weeks of the season.
Unfortunately, he suffered a hamstring injury in Week 4. That placed him on the injured list through Week 7. When returning in Week 8, Danna got right back into the rotation and looked solid when given opportunities. He finished the season with 22 total tackles and three sacks. Not bad at all for a fifth-round draft pick in his rookie season.
Heading into the 2021 season, Danna will once again have to fight for his role in the rotation. The Chiefs have a returning starter in Frank Clark and there have been discussions that Chris Jones will get a significant amount of playing time across from Clark as the other defensive end this season. The Chiefs brought Taco Charlton back and Tim Ward will be in the mix as well. Those are a couple of guys who have experience in the system. Not only that, but the Chiefs drafted Joshua Kaindoh, who they believe has a lot of potential and could be the team’s EDGE of the future.
There is a lot of depth on the team, and there has been speculation that the Chiefs could still add another veteran EDGE like Melvin Ingram before training camp. This would make for a crowded defensive end room and really make Danna work for his spot.
How could Danna make that second-year jump? He’s going to need to beat out some solid players to get into the rotation early and often. If his snap count is similar to last season, that would likely be a win for Danna with the amount of competition at the position. If he can boost his numbers a little bit with a similar snap count percentage, that would be a positive.
It’s likely that the expectations for Danna will need to be tempered heading into the 2021 season. I don’t anticipate him making a move into the starting lineup and it will be difficult to make that big second-year jump. Can Danna be a good role player and fill in when he’s called upon as he did in his rookie season? He can absolutely be that guy, and that is the role I foresee for him again this season for the Chiefs.