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Camp spotlight: Owen Daniels


Psst. Want a good tip for your fantasy football team? Check out Texans tight end Owen Daniels. He's the real deal.

Actually, the suggestion might be a little late. Daniels' name already is showing up regularly on the charts among NFL players at his position, especially last season when he became an integral part of the Texans' offense.

"It's cool to be recognized in magazines like that, but it all comes down to playing," Daniels said. "I've got buddies calling me and strangers coming up saying I'm on their fantasy league team week-to-week. I feel bad if they pick me and I don't help them out."

Daniels helped out the Texans a lot last season. He was second on the team with 63 catches and third with 768 receiving yards and three touchdowns. He led all league tight ends in catches that resulted in first downs with 44. That's 75 percent of his total, also tops for NFL tight ends.

{QUOTE}Daniels hasn't replaced Antonio Gates on the elite tight end list yet. But he's working on it. He's attained at least sleeper status for the fantasy football crowd.

"I don't know why he's a sleeper," tight end Joel Dreessen said. "I'd say he's up there with the best of them."

If there is a knock on Daniels, it's his blocking. He's somewhat undersized at 6-3, 243 pounds going against much larger defensive players. Dreessen disagrees with that assessment.

"This year, I think Owen is the complete package," Dreessen said. "He is so ridiculously athletic. He's fun to watch. You can't cover the guy. To say he's not a blocking tight end is very much a fabrication because he does it very well.

"I watch him every play, his shiftiness, his quickness, you can't jam him. He's a technician. His first steps in regard to the blocking. Everything he does, I watch and try to mimic."

Daniels has been on the fast track to NFL excellence since he was drafted by the Texans in the fourth round in 2006. He started 12 games his first year and caught 34 passes for 350 yards. His five touchdown catches ranked first among NFL rookie tight ends. That's including San Francisco's Vernon Davis, the sixth overall pick that year.

Daniels already is second among Texans' tight ends with 97 career receptions for 1,120 yards. He's closing in on Billy Miller (2002-2004).

In two seasons since he was the Texans' fourth-round pick out of Wisconsin, Daniels has logged 97 receptions for 1,120 yards and eight touchdowns.

"I had a pretty productive rookie season," Daniels said. "I was learning on the fly. My goal for the next season was to improve on my consistency each week. I started all 16 games and I was able to stay consistent. That's my goal this year, to stay consistent and hopefully help the team more in the red zone than I did last year."

Daniels has concentrated on blocking techniques in the offseason.

"The blocking part is more difficult because most of the time I'm undersized, blocking guys 30 to 50 pounds heavier than I am," Daniels said. "I'm still learning the techniques of tight end. It's only my fifth year at tight end.

"I don't have a problem being physical, but the technique, the footwork all that goes into that is what makes it hard."

Tight ends coach Brian Pariani has watched Daniels blossom.

"This season we want him to be a better run blocker," Pariani said. "What we're trying to do on offense all begins with the running game. He's stronger and his expectations are greater, too.

"If somebody can do both it makes them an every-down player. Going into his third season, he's working himself into an every-down player so that you don't know what we're going to do when he's in the game."

Daniels started college as a quarterback and shifted positions as a sophomore. Being a former quarterback has helped Daniels to see the entire field and to digest the playbook.

"I learned the entire offense in college as a quarterback," Daniels said. "I had to be conscious what everyone was doing. That carries over to how I learn this offense. Being a tight end in this offense, you could be anywhere – on the line, in the slot, split out wide, and you could be in the backfield. We could call the same play and you can be in any spot on the field."

Daniels led the Texans in one stat he wishes not to repeat: fumbles.

"Maybe I was trying to do a little too much after the catch, trying to get those extra yards and I lost focus on the football," Daniels said. "That's something I'm focusing on this year for sure."

Daniels has been healthy through his first two pro seasons and in his final three college seasons. Oddly, health might have caused him to drop in the draft. He had ACL surgery his senior year in high school and again in college.

Whatever the issue was then, it doesn't matter now.

"They look at everything," Daniels said of NFL scouting departments. "They want to make a good investment on who's going to be able to hold up for them.

"I played three years after that and had no problems, so I was hoping that I wouldn't have to worry about it. It might have affected where I was drafted, but I'm happy where I am. I can't complain."

Neither can the Texans.

EDITOR'S NOTE: *Michael A. Lutz worked for The Associated Press for 38 years covering news and sports in Louisville, Ky. Dallas and Houston. Most of that time was spent in Houston covering the Oilers, Astros, Texans and other college and pro sports. *

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