The Chicago Bears found a diamond-in-the-rough when they selected Jordan Howard in the fifth-round of the 2016 NFL Draft, but could they find another if they take a double-dip in the Hoosier state?
According to Draft Analyst’s Troy Pauline, the Bears have visited with Indiana offensive lineman Dan Feeney, who helped paved the way for Howard to break out at Indiana, and could be a welcome addition to the Bears group of offensive linemen. Feeney is a 6-foot-4, 305-pound lineman who can be plugged along the line right away after showing strong blocking skills in the run game, adequate ability in pass protection, and the right kind of attitude, together projecting to make him a quality offensive lineman.
But here’s the kicker: Feeney is a guard. And as a refresher, the interior of the Bears offensive line is well off as it is, with guards Josh Sitton and Kyle Long flanking center Cody Whitehair. Sitton was Pro Football Focus’ 10th best guard, while Long checked in at 28th of 72 qualifiers in an injury shortened season. Whitehair had the best year among the Bears interior linemen, checking in with an 87.2 grade that put him sixth among centers. On the surface, there isn’t much of a fit for Feeney, a four-year starter and two-year captain for the Hoosiers who ranks as PFF’s third best available center and 68th best player overall.
However, the offensive line situation – which ranks firmly in the middle-of-the-pack – should be seen as fluid after the Bears missed out on signing right tackle Bobby Wagner in free agency. The Bears could stand to improve at either tackle spot, and while Sitton is set at left guard, Whitehair and Long have shown versatility in previous seasons. Whitehair played everywhere along the line at Kansas State, except center, where he stepped up and turned in one of the best seasons a Bears offensive lineman has had in a while. Long’s best position might be guard, but he put together a decent season at tackle with a 79.8 grade in 2015 without playing there until the team’s season-opening game.
WalterFootball.com has Feeney as a second or third rounder, meaning he could slip to the Bears, who could conceivably take him with the 36th or 67th picks. And if that scenario played out, the Bears could take the initiative and move Long back to right tackle where he would actually have time to settle into his new position. This isn’t the ideal draft to be needing an offensive tackle, which is unfortunate for a Bears team that arguably needs two.
However, a forward-thinking team could be creative with how it deploys its current offensive linemen, with the idea of adding a new piece in mind. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that the Bears are that team, especially with how they moved Whitehair in 2016 and Long in 2015.