The Chicago Bears selected Iowa offensive lineman James Daniels in the second round of the 2018 NFL draft, but the team's scouting department feels like they ended up with a bonus first-rounder with the pick.
“We had him as a first-round player,” Bears director of player personnel Josh Lucas said Daniels' episode of Meet the Rookies. “You never know. Every team’s going to have different flavors with interior linemen. It’s just one of those things that you hope he’s there. But based on our grades, based on where we saw the top 32 players in the draft, we definitely weren’t anticipating him being there.”
The Bears weren't the only one to consider Daniels a first-round player. Multiple outlets graded the Hawkeyes standout as a potential first-rounder, including NFL.com's Lance Zierlein who had this to say about Chicago's new starting guard:
Daniels is a fluid mover with tremendous initial quickness to win positioning on most every zone block he's asked to make -- both on the first and second levels. His height, weight and arm length numbers at the Combine will be critical in either solidifying his draft slot or potentially dropping him a round. Some teams might see him as a zone-only center, but he may be strong enough to fit in with other blocking schemes. He needs to get stronger, but he's a plus run blocker and pass protector with a chance to become a Pro Bowl starter.
Most draft analysts graded Daniels as a center, but with Cody Whitehair returning to that spot full-time this season, Daniels will slide into the left guard role vacated by the departure of Josh Sitton this offseason.
Assuming Daniels takes to his new gig in the NFL and starts at a high level for 16 games, the Bears' scouting department can celebrate their grade and the team's home run at the 39th overall pick.