The Bears bolstered their offensive line by selecting Iowa center James Daniels with the 39th overall pick in the second round of the NFL Draft.
Daniels was a three-year contributor for the Hawkeyes, starting all 23 games he played at center the past two seasons. He appeared in every game as a true freshman, made two starts at left guard and also lined up at tackle. Last season Daniels started all 12 games and was an honorable mention All-Big Ten selection.
"It really means a lot to me that the Bears took the time to scout me and put a lot of work and resources into drafting me," Daniels said. "The draft costs a lot, players cost a lot. It's a business decision. For them to take a chance on me, I really appreciate what they've done."
Bears general manager Ryan Pace said that Daniels will begin his pro career by competing at guard, while third-year pro Cody Whitehair will remain at center.
Daniels is the second interior lineman the Bears have selected in the second round in three years, following Kansas State's Whitehair, who was chosen 56th in 2016. The 6-3, 306-pounder is the highest offensive lineman drafted by the Bears since Kyle Long was picked 20th in 2013.
Daniels lived in DeKalb, Ill., from third grade through eighth grade before moving to Ohio, where he attended Harding High School. As a sophomore in 2012, Daniels and Harding lost to Mentor High School 45-35 in the first round of the state playoffs.
Mentor was led by a certain quarterback named Mitchell Trubisky, who passed for 356 yards and five touchdowns and ran for 94 yards and one TD in the game.
With the 39th pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, the Chicago Bears select Iowa OL James Daniels.
"He just tore us apart," Daniels said with a laugh. "He had like 500 total yards against us. When he went to college, I followed him because it was always to see players you played against in high school do well in college and when he got drafted by the Bears last year I was excited for him."
Asked if he's excited to block for Trubisky with the Bears, Daniels said: "I'm real excited. If you would have said six years ago that I'd be blocking for him I would have said, ‘You're lying. That's the craziest thing I ever heard.' But it means a lot to me."
Daniels knows that the relationship between a quarterback and a center is unlike any other on the football field.
"You always have to be tight," he said. "At Iowa, sometimes the quarterback would make decisions and sometimes the center had to make decisions. When I would make a bad decision, the quarterback would correct me. When you have a tight relationship, when that quarterback corrects you, you don't get mad at him or complain about it. You realize that he knows what he's talking about. The snap starts every football play and any mistake with the snap can throw off the entire play. So just having that tight relationship means a lot.
Daniels, who won't turn 21 until September, declared for the draft after his true junior season and has drawn comparisons to Eagles center Jason Kelce.
"The thing about Kelce is he's undersized, so in pass protection the way he uses his hands and plays with leverage, he has to do that or he wouldn't be in the NFL," Daniels said. "He's not big enough or strong enough to have bad technique and be effective.
"The run game, too, the way he plays with leverage and hand placement and pad level is amazing. He's a great athlete, too. I can't say I'm as athletic as him, but we're on the same path, and for those reasons I feel like we're similar."