LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The recent arrivals of free-agent offensive linemen Ted Larsen and Manny Ramirez did not discourage the Bears from moving back 15 spots to draft Kansas State offensive guard Cody Whitehair in the second round (No. 56).
My take: Whitehair is a practical pick. A four-year starter at Kansas State, Whitehair has experience at left guard, left tackle and right tackle. The Bears' offseason mission is to create competition on the offensive line. Whitehair is a future starter, likely on the left side of the offensive line.
"Cody Whitehair is a guy we really liked throughout this whole process," Bears general manager Ryan Pace said. "We see him as a guard. 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. Good player that we’re excited to have. A versatile player."
Worst-case scenario, Whitehair is a key reserve until he one day joins the starting lineup. While Leonard Floyd (No. 9) represented a somewhat risky choice, Whitehair is rock solid. He started 51 of 52 games at Kansas State (41 straight to end his career), helping the Wildcats post a 34-18 overall record. A four-time All-Big 12 honoree, Whitehair was one of the conference’s top offensive linemen. At 6-foot-4, 305 pounds, Whitehair is built to last in the NFL for years to come. Maybe the Bears preferred Indiana offensive lineman Jason Spriggs (Green Bay moved up to No. 48 to draft him), but Whitehair is a nice consolation prize.
Goodbye Slauson? Matt Slauson is a consummate professional, but could be in real trouble. Not only is Larsen expected to compete for a starting guard job, but Whitehair is assured a spot on the 53-man roster.
"We haven’t even gotten to [deciding Slauson's future] yet," Pace said. "We’re just adding talent and we’ll let it all sort out."
Even if that's true, the Bears can only keep so many offensive linemen. The best course of action for Slauson may be to play somewhere else in 2016. Slauson, however, can still perform at a high-level. He did a great job filling in (under difficult circumstances) at center when Hroniss Grasu and Will Montgomery suffered injuries. But Slauson faces an even steeper uphill battle in Chicago in the wake of Whitehair’s selection.
Good company: Whitehair is the second guard drafted by the Bears in the top two rounds since 2013. The other: three-time Pro Bowler Kyle Long.
“I know he’s a great player,” Whitehair said about Long. “I know he’s a Pro Bowl kind of guy. He’s going to be a great player. He’s going to be a great teacher for me. I’m looking forward to playing with him.”
NFL teams used to shy away from using first- or second-round picks on guards, but solidifying the middle of the line is important, especially for a team like Chicago that likes to run the football. Whitehair is the first Kansas State player drafted by the Bears since cornerback Joshua Moore (fifth round) in 2010.
What’s next: The Bears have one pick (No. 72) in the third round. Because of all the trade activity in Round 2, the Bears now have three picks in the fourth round on Saturday.