LAKE FOREST, Ill. — The Bears went back to building their offense on the second day of the draft.
Chicago took Iowa center James Daniels and Memphis receiver Anthony Miller on Friday night, giving prized quarterback Mitchell Trubisky more protection and another target.
The Bears took Daniels with the 39th overall pick. They then traded back into the second round with New England to take Miller at No. 51. In exchange, the Bears sent the Patriots a fourth-round pick this year (105) and a second-rounder in 2019.
The Bears have spent the offseason loading up the offense to help Trubisky develop into the franchise quarterback they believe he can become, and they were back at it after drafting Georgia standout linebacker Roquan Smith with the No. 8 pick.
General manager Ryan Pace said the Bears plan to have Daniels compete at left guard with Eric Kush and “cross train” at center. That means Cody Whitehair will be snapping the ball to Trubisky after bouncing between center and guard over two seasons.
“That’s how we want to go right now,” Pace said. “Cody was a tackle in college and we felt he had the position versatility to play multiple spots. No different than James Daniel. No different than Eric Kush. Position versatility in our offensive line is important. They all have that.”
The 6-foot-3, 306-pound Daniels — who turns 21 in September — played three seasons at Iowa and was honorable-mention, all-Big Ten last year. He is looking forward to playing with Trubisky after getting shredded by him in an Ohio regional playoff game in high school. Trubisky threw for five touchdowns and ran for one to lead Mentor over Warren G. Harding in 2012.
“I’m real excited,” Daniels said. “In 2012, if you would have asked six years ago that I’d be blocking for him, I would say you’re lying. That’s the craziest thing I ever heard. But it means a lot to me.”
The Bears can see Miller contributing in the slot and on the outside.
“He’s got good route savvy, good route quickness,” Pace said. “He just knows how to set things up. really strong hands — he’s got 10-inch hands so he can really pluck the ball.”
Miller had no FBS offers coming out of Christian Brothers High School in Memphis and opted to walk on at his hometown school. He went on to catch 238 passes for 3,590 yards and 37 touchdowns in three seasons and was a first-team, All-American as a senior last year. A broken bone in his right foot caused him to miss the Senior Bowl. He said it’s completely healed.
“I’m going to prove everybody who passed me up wrong,” Miller said. “The Bears are going to get all I got. They’re going to get the Memphis grind. I don’t think they’ve seen that yet. But I’m going to introduce them to it.”
“This area, there’s not a lot going on around here,” Miller said. “People have got to work for everything they’ve got. Nobody is put over anybody as far as status. In order to get respect, you’ve got to work for it. You’ve got to grind for it. You’ve got to put in time. I believe I get a lot of respect around here because I didn’t ask for any handouts. I just came to work every day and put it in. It’s all paying off for me.”
The Bears did not have a third-round pick late Friday. They have one each in the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh on Saturday.
The Bears finished last in the NFC North for the fourth straight year and missed the playoffs for the 10th time in 11 seasons since the 2006 team’s Super Bowl run. They haven’t posted a winning record since 2012, Lovie Smith’s final year. But the Monsters of the Midway made some big moves designed to get the most out of their prized quarterback and lift a struggling franchise.
They fired John Fox and replaced him with the offensive-minded Matt Nagy, a protege of Andy Reid. They also gave Trubisky some new targets, including a new No. 1 receiver in Allen Robinson.
In the draft, there was a different feel through the first two rounds this year. Pace landed more established, NFL-ready players this time. That was a bit of a change from 2016 and 2017, when he took linebacker Leonard Floyd and Trubisky in the first round.
“I would say that it’s just the way our board fell,” Pace said. “Sometimes it’s going to feel the other way. these are guys that fell that way this year.”