A year after the Bears' draft was panned even after they took the highest-rated quarterback on a lot of National Football League draft boards, they are getting high marks for drafting Georgia linebacker Roquan Smth ("the draft's best linebacker"), Iowa center James Daniels ("maybe the draft's best center"), Memphis wide receiver Anthony Miller ("the draft's most underrated receiver"), Western Kentucky linebacker Joel "Iggy" Iyiegbuniwe ("a hybrid defender who will make an impact on special teams"), DE defensive tackle Bilal Nichols ("an athletic big man that will fit in the rotation right away"), Utah edge rusher Kylie Fitts ("can be a beast of a situational pass rusher") and Georgia wide receiver Javon Wims ("can win downfield for Mitchell Trubisky").
Daniels should provide immediate help on the offensive line. Veteran journeyman Eric Kush lined up in that spot during last week's veteran minicamp.
The Bears needed help at guard with Josh Sitton gone and with Kyle Long recovering from ankle, shoulder and neck surgeries. It is highly likely that the Bears were offering their second-round pick, along with one of their two fourth-round selections. Whitehair can move back to his college position of guard to accommodate Daniels in the middle. The 5-foot-11 receiver struggled with injuries near the end of the season, but still put up 195 yards and three touchdowns in a double-overtime loss to UCF in the American Athletic Conference Championship. Our plan is to start him off at guard and cross-train him at center. "The Bears are gonna get all I got". While Daniels doesn't have great size, he is very strong and team sources are raving about his heavy hands with the ability to sustain blocks while getting movement at the point of attack.
As a four-year player and two-year starter, Iyiegbuniwe racked up 200 tackles and 22.5 tackles for loss.
"He's got good route savvy; good route quickness", Pace said. If it turns out that Daniels is snapping the ball to Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky, they already have history.
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"We think he's big enough, especially when you look at his lower body", Pace said.
Draft experts project Nichols as a nose tackle in the Bears 3-4 scheme. About the three-man front, I really love the fact that you're putting a lot of pressure on your D-linemen to make plays and stop the run. He is rated as the top center in the draft by many scouts.
The only other offensive linemen in the Ferentz era to go higher than Daniels include Robert Gallery (second overall, 2004), Bryan Bulaga (23rd overall, 2010), Riley Reiff (23rd overall, 2012) and Brandon Scherff (fifth overall, 2015). "I don't go into the games expecting to talk too much smack, but I believe you've got to have that in your toolbox in order to play this game". We feel like there's still some growth potential ahead of him as well.
"I'll say this about James", Ferentz said. "At the end of the day, all I need is a chance".