It’s not entirely certain whether the Bears would have selected Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson with the 8th overall pick on Thursday night, had he not gone two picks earlier to the Indianapolis Colts (the Bears instead picked Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith).
But the Bears addressed the interior of their offensive line on the second night of the draft, selecting Iowa center/guard James Daniels with the 7th pick in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft.
In Daniels, the Bears have a swift interior lineman who has the versatility to play multiple positions on the offensive line — something that general manager Ryan Pace valued a great deal.
“We value his position versatility; that’s his strength,” Pace said. “We believe he has that. Things that stand out with this player are quickness, leverage, balance and excellent technique in pass protection. He’s a guy our scouts and coaches all valued highly. We’re all on the same page on this one and we’re excited to add him.”
The Bears needed help at center or guard after the team declined an option on veteran Josh Sitton, effectively releasing him after two seasons with the team. With Cody Whitehair able to play any position along the offensive line and with Kyle Long capable of playing four of the five, the Bears had flexibility entering the draft.
The plan for now is to have Whitehair remain at center and for Daniels to compete at guard.
“That’s how we want to go right now,” Pace said. “Cody was a tackle in college and we felt he had the position versatility to play multiple spots. No different than James Daniels. No different than Eric Kush. Position versatility on our offensive line is important, so they all have that. But yeah, as we go into this right now, Cody’s the center and then James will compete at the guard spot.”
Daniels is considered a “fluid mover” according to his draft profile on NFL.com. They also say he is “smooth, fluid and flexible” and that he has “good snap to step quickness.” All of this means, of course, that he would be a natural fit at guard, where a player is often asked to pull on stretch runs and get to the second level of the defense.
Nearly all the weaknesses listed for him refer to his body frame and strength — things that can be corrected in the guidance of an NFL conditioning program, thus, aren’t of great concern.
With Long approaching 30, something he’ll hit in December, the Bears clearly needed to upgrade the middle of their offensive line, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they go back to the well again on the third day of the draft.
The Bears could use help on the outside of the line, upgrading the tackle position where Bobby Massie and Charles Leno Jr. have had their ups and downs in recent seasons. If the Bears intend on testing the capabilities of new head coach Matt Nagy’s dynamic offense, they’ll need all the protection they can get for young Mitch Trubisky.