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Daniel Barker
NFL Draft

Daniel Barker NFL Draft 2023 Prospect Interview

  • Justin Melo
  • March 1, 2023
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Michigan State tight end Daniel Barker is one of the more versatile do-it-all role players in the 2023 NFL Draft. It’s difficult to pinpoint Barker’s positioning on the field when combing through Michigan State tape. On any given snap, Barkey may line up in the slot, flexed out wide as a receiver, in-line, or even in the backfield to take handoffs. Barker’s versatility made the Spartans’ offense multiple.

Barker recently spoke exclusively with The Draft Network about his experience at this year’s East-West Shrine Bowl. Barker also discussed his athletic skill set, which teams have shown interest in his services, and so much more. Barker reminds me a little of Chigoziem Okonkwo from last year’s draft class.

JM: You attended this year’s East-West Shrine Bowl. What do you feel is the impression you left on general managers and scouts in attendance?

Daniel Barker: I feel like I left a good impression. I was energized and positive out there. I’m somebody that’s always willing to learn. I try to take steps forward every single day. I want to get 1% better every single day. I went to the Shrine Bowl and I was myself. I gained a lot of knowledge out there. I’m willing to do whatever it takes for the team. I’m going to continue being the great person that I’ve always been.

JM: Who are some of the teams you met with that showed interest in your services?

Daniel Barker: I actually met with all 32 teams. Every team is very good at playing their cards close to their chest. I didn’t really get a feel for who liked me and who didn’t. I was able to speak with every team. I just continued to be myself. I don’t know how they felt about that. I’m going to be a great person. I was as honest as I could be.

JM: When we turn the tape on, we see a versatile talent that lined up at multiple positions, including in the backfield, flexed out wide and in-line. How did you become such a versatile talent?

Daniel Barker: I’ve been playing the tight end position my entire life. Growing up, I was always more of a receiving tight end. As I was training as a young player, I always worked on my skills as a receiver. I’ve had that receiving aspect of my game my entire life.

I was playing tight end but I’ve always had that receiver mindset. I knew that I had to be versatile. I think that’s what drove me to be as versatile as I am. As I got to college, especially by my senior season, I knew that I had to block as well. As the years went by, I’ve been honing my skills as a blocker. I’ve continued to learn different tips about blocking.

I’m a versatile tight end. I probably catch more than I block but I’m a team-first guy first and foremost. I love blocking. I enjoy doing the little stuff that matters. Blocking is one of those ‘little’ things that actually has a huge impact. If you make a key block on a play that goes for a 60-yard touchdown, that’s almost bigger than scoring the touchdown yourself (laughs). I’ve always wanted to make a big impact on the game.

JM: Absolutely. You talked about being a pass-catcher, too. Do you have a go-to route you love running?

Daniel Barker: I really don’t. I can run every route in the route tree. I don’t really have a favorite route.  I’m one of those guys that’s always open. It doesn’t matter what the route is. Whatever gets called up or drawn up, I’m going to execute it to the best of my ability. If I’m supposed to get open, I’m going to get open.

JM: Your athletic ability really pops on tape. You’re able to create yards for yourself after the catch. How did you develop that aspect of your game?

Daniel Barker: I’ve always told myself you’re one play away. I’ve always wanted to be one of those guys that can be counted on to make a big play when we need it most. Every time I catch the ball, I try to make something happen after the catch.

I’m not satisfied by catching the ball and being tackled right then and there. I have to secure the catch and then make something happen. That’s what separates me from a lot of other tight ends. Creating something after the catch is a huge plus.

JM: Do you prefer working against zone or man coverage? Why?

Daniel Barker: They’re pretty even in my eyes. If it’s zone coverage, I have a knack for finding the soft spot in zone coverage. If it’s man coverage, I don’t think there’s anybody that can cover me. I’ll let the defense pick their poison against me.

JM: One of the questions you’ll face throughout the process is about passing game production. You played in a run-heavy offense, which limited your opportunities. How do you plan on addressing that topic with NFL teams?

Daniel Barker: I’m willing to do whatever it takes to win. I did exactly what Michigan State asked of me. I always have things I want to work on. I want to continue taking steps every single day. I want to be as effective as I can be in the passing game. I love doing that.

JM: We’ve appreciated your time today. In closing, what kind of impact is Daniel Barker going to make at the next level?

Daniel Barker: I’m always one play away. That’s the motto I live by. The sky’s the limit for what I can achieve at the next level. I feel like my best football is ahead of me. The sky’s the limit for Daniel Barker. I’m always one big play away.

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Justin Melo