For the second straight year, the Chicago Bears used a high draft pick on a player at a position with an established starter.
But instead of letting any awkwardness regarding the future of second-round draft pick James Daniels and incumbent center Cody Whitehair linger, or let alone start, the Bears squashed any issues rather quickly.
“They called me, just talked to me,” Whitehair said, via the Chicago Sun-Times. “Told me not to worry, all’s good, and he’s going to help us.”
Daniels wasn’t just a well-regarded center prospect, he was the highest-rated player at the position according to many draftniks. That he dropped into the second round was a blessing for a Bears team that had a clear need along the interior of the offensive line. But with Whitehair seemingly locked in at center, the selection of Daniels initially came off as curious in the eyes of many. So while it didn’t come with as much fan fare as the selection of Mitch Trubisky with the second overall pick when the team had just inked Mike Glennon to a free agent, it was still a tedious situation.
So good for the Bears on handling this potential troublesome issue quickly and without drama. It’s a step up from last year when Glennon was front-and-center at the team’s draft party, only to watch his future replacement get drafted with the second overall pick.
As for the long-term ramifications of the move, the Bears appear to be better off at those two positions now than they were at the end of last season because of the depth accumulated along the interior line.
This isn’t to say the Bears won’t completely miss Josh Sitton’s presence at left guard, because replacing a Pro Bowler who is highly skilled in run blocking and pass protection isn’t easy. But the team has accumulated noticeable depth at the position this offseason. Chicago signed Earl Watford to join returning reserves interior linemen such as Brandon Greene, Eric Kush, Jordan Morgan, and Will Pericak (who was on the practice squad). The Bears also shifted nose tackle Rashaad Coward to the other side of the line, where he figures to get some time as a reserve guard. And we can’t forget about Hroniss Grasu, the first center drafted in the Pace era who has yet to put it all together.
In the end, Whitehair remains at a position where he excelled as a rookie. It probably isn’t a coincidence Whitehair played his best late in the year when he was holding it down at center, as opposed to moving around to different guard spots. As for Daniels, he moves to a “new” position that he has some familiarity with having started his college career as a guard. The team has already put it out there that Daniels will get some snaps at center during the offseason training program. So should the Bears need a center in a pinch, they will be be better suited to fill that void with Daniels than they were before drafting him.