Bears general manager Ryan Pace described second-round draft pick James Daniels, a center/guard from Iowa, as "one of the better interior linemen on our board."
"We value his position versatility; that's his strength," Pace said. "We believe he has that. Things that stand out with this player are quickness, leverage, balance and excellent technique in pass protection. He's a guy our scouts and coaches all valued highly. We're all on the same page on this one and we're excited to add him."
The Bears selected Daniels with the 39th overall pick in the draft.
At Iowa, Daniels started all 23 games he played at center the past two seasons after making two starts at left guard as a true freshman in 2015. Pace said that the 6-3, 306-pounder will begin his Bears career by competing at guard, with 2016 second-round pick Cody Whitehair remaining at center.
"That's how we want to go right now," Pace said. "Cody was a tackle in college and we felt he had the positon versatility to play multiple spots. No different than James Daniels. No different than Eric Kush. Position versatility on our offensive line is important, so they all have that. But yeah, as we go into this right now, Cody's the center and then James will compete at the guard spot."
James Daniels snaps the ball while playing for Iowa against Ohio State.
Pace feels that Daniels, who will turn 21 in September, is big enough to play guard in the NFL.
"He's thick in the lower body, he's powerful in the lower body," Pace said. "Only being 20 years old, we feel like there's still some growth potential ahead of him as well. He just plays with natural leverage and natural pad level that really helps him, too, and helps with our projection when we're looking at him going to guard."
Pace likes Daniels' traits and the fact that Bears offensive line coach Harry Hiestand is equally impressed with the Iowa lineman's potential in the NFL.
"It's a guy we've been talking about for a while," Pace said. "He's very athletic. He's very quick off the ball, very good technique, like a lot of Iowa offensive linemen. It's a guy that Harry was really passionate about, too.
"We feel like there's still a lot of upside ahead of this player, as young as he is. You see these offensive linemen kind of get caught in awkward positions. He has the ability to kind of recover and maintain his balance. Where some guys awkwardly go down in those moments, he doesn't do that."
Pace and the personnel department consult with coaches such as Hiestand and head coach Matt Nagy when evaluating draft prospects like Daniels.
"When we're talking about a guy playing center or guard or we talk about a tackle coming in, it's important to have the coach's input in that because there are certain traits we look for to determine if they can do that," Pace said.
"And obviously with James, we feel like he has that versatility, which made him more attractive for us. But these guys just have to battle out in there. They have to battle all-out. We have a lot of competition, especially with our interior offensive line. I think it's important for us to have competition throughout our roster but especially with our offensive line. We feel really good about that and really good about Harry and [assistant line coach] Donovan [Raiola] continuing to develop those players."