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Bears trade down twice, draft Whitehair

The Bears bolstered their offensive line by selecting guard Cody Whitehair with the 56th overall pick in the second round of the NFL Draft.

The 6-4, 301-pounder started 52 of 53 games over four seasons at Kansas State, including a streak of 41 straight to end his career. After splitting time between left guard and right tackle his first two seasons, he started at left tackle his final two years.

The Bears met with Whitehair, a first-team All-Big 12 selection last season as a senior, at the Senior Bowl and then during a pre-draft visit at Halas Hall.

"Cody Whitehair is a guy we really liked throughout the whole process," said general manager Ryan Pace. "He's a four-year starter. He's played multiple positions. We see him as a guard. [But] he played some tackle and I think he can play center too.

"This is what you're looking for in an offensive lineman. He's smart. He's tough. He's instinctive. He loves the weight room. Those are all things that I like. He's a good player that we're excited to have, a versatile player."

The Bears chose Whitehair after trading down twice in the second round, dropping a total of 15 spots to acquire three fourth-round picks, two this year and one in the future.

First, they sent the No. 41 pick to the Bills in exchange for the No. 49 selection plus fourth-round choices this year (No. 117) and next year. The Bears then traded the No. 49 pick to the Seahawks for the No. 56 choice and a fourth-round selection (No. 124).

With the 56th pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, the Bears select Kansas State G Cody Whitehair.

"We were able to acquire more picks tonight, which I think was huge for us," Pace said. "There are a lot of good players in the draft [Saturday] and now we've got a lot of swings at those players. I know our scouts and coaches are fired up to have that ammunition."

Pace was happy to acquire a fourth-round pick from the Seahawks to recoup a fourth-rounder the Bears sent to the Buccaneers to move up two spots to select Georgia outside linebacker Leonard Floyd with the ninth pick in the first round Thursday night.

The Bears general manager was equally pleased to pick up a 2017 fourth-round to replace the 2017 sixth-round he sent to the Houston Texans last year for tight end Khari Lee.

Pace stressed that the Packers trading up one spot ahead of the Bears had no impact on their decision to deal down a second time in the second round.

"That really didn't affect us," Pace said. "We had a lot of names there that we liked. So when our pick is approaching and we're realizing there are a lot of guys here that we like, this is a chance for us to go back knowing we've got enough names to still get a good player and pick up some picks. That's why we did it.

"I was very happy when we were able to go back and still get the guys that we want and still get these additional picks. The draft's deep. There are a lot of guys that we've still got good grades on, and that's why it's so exciting. This late at night, I've never walked out of a draft room with scouts more excited because of what we can do with those additional picks now. Everyone's fired upm and that makes me feel good, because I have a lot of confidence in them."

The Bears general manager also has a lot of confidence in Whitehair.

"He's an aggressive player," Pace said. "He's really good in space. He plays with great inside hand placement and he's got strong hands. I love offensive linemen with strong inside hands. When they latch on you can't get rid of him. He's a very difficult player to shed once he gets his hands on your chest."

Whitehair joins a crowded group of interior linemen with the Bears, who signed veterans Manny Ramirez and Ted Larsen in free agency, joining center Hroniss Grasu, guard/center Matt Slauson and Kyle Long, who appears headed back from right tackle to right guard.

"We just wanted to create more competition there, honestly," Pace said. "It's pushing everybody. Every single one of those offensive linemen is getting pushed. I think that's what they would expect. We're going to try to do that at every single position on the roster, not just the offensive line."

The battle for starting jobs up front figures to be intense in training camp.

"These guys are all versatile," Pace said. "They're all smart and they can all play different positions. [Line coach Dave Magazu] is going to have his hands full kind of sorting this out. But we promised him we'd load up with some talent and we've done that. The offensive line is going to be improved."

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