The Chicago Bears created a need at left guard when the team decided not to pick up the third-year option on veteran Pro Bowler Josh Sitton, but that hole appears to have been plugged on draft weekend.
In a video shared on the Bears’ YouTube channel, radio play-by-play voice Jeff Joniak gets the inside scoop on second-round pick James Daniels from area scout Scott Hamel. Interior linemen were flying off the board when the Bears chose Daniels with the 39th overall selection, but I don’t think many of them had so many of the things Chicago valued highly – such as versatility, pedigree, and smarts.
“He has some flexibility, which is part of the reason that we were so attracted to James,” Hamel said about Daniels. “He was a center for them, but he does have some guard flex. Obviously, the more flexible you are in that room, the more value you’re going to bring.”
That flexibility is going to play a major role in fitting Daniels into the lineup and molding the offensive line into a strong unit. Daniels played mostly at center while at Iowa, but earned his first career start with the Hawkeyes as a left guard in 2015 as a true freshman in a 40-10 win against Northwestern.
I suppose this could present a smooth transition for us into introducing another positive Daniels brings to the table, the ability to adapt and thrive.
Daniels has the reputation of being a quick learner, which helped give him a leg up and play as a true freshman in 2015. He saw time at guard and tackle in his first year on campus (there goes that flexibility again!) and then made the move to full-time center as a sophomore. Daniels’ success at that position was not overlooked as he earned first-team Sophomore All-America by Campus Insiders, second-team All Big Ten by Athlon Sports, and third-team All-Big Ten by the conference’s coaches and media members.
Between Daniels’ skills and Iowa’s knack for developing offensive line talent, it was easy for this particular prospect to stand out. Hamel expressed a belief that Daniels is the next quality Iowa offensive line prospect to make a strong showing in the pros, adding that Daniels is one of the more athletic linemen the school has produced. That Daniels declared for the draft as a true junior suggests the Bears believe the best is yet to come for the 20-year-old lineman.
There was a case to be made that the Bears needed to get younger and more athletic at the position, and Chicago did just that by selecting the University of Iowa product. Daniels was one of nine projected interior offensive linemen to go in the first two rounds of the draft, as several teams prioritized bulking up the middle. And while the Bears seemed set at center with Cody Whitehair, GM Ryan Pace made it clear almost immediately that the plan was to keep Whitehair at center and develop Daniels as a guard.
Daniels is just the latest to bring versatility to the Bears line, as it’s worth noting that each of the tam’s three interior linemen – Daniels, Whitehair, and Kyle Long – each have experience playing positions other than the one they are projected to start at in 2018. That’s probably not a coincidence.
You can watch the video below for more from Hamel on what the Bears liked about Daniels: