Versatility is something any NFL team looks for in offensive line candidates.
Wheninjuries occur, if there are only eight or nine linemen active on a Sunday then players need to be able to adjust positions.
In college, most of the better linemen will play tackle at some point because the best overall athletes need to be at a spot requiring the most athletic ability. They might not be athletic enough for tackle in the NFL and then get converted to guard, but it’s always good to have that college background of multiple positions.
The Bears can face a choice of moving one of the tackles they drafted last year, Larry Borom and Teven Jenkins, to guard if they are unable to sign free agent James Daniels back to continue playing right guard.
At only 24 years old, it’s possible Daniels will command $10 million or more a year in free agency. Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune reported an unnamed agent said Daniels could get $12 million a year and this would be a difficult amount for the Bears to handle, even with about $25 million in cap space available this year.
There is an alternative beyond going the expensive route of looking for a replacement in free agency. The Bears could simply draft another tackle or a guard and plug him in at right guard.
It obviously would need to be after Round 1 because they lack a first-round pick but even in Round 2 there could be more pressing needs like wide receiver, defensive line or cornerback.
A potential choice in Round 3 might be someone very familiar to Bears quarterback Justin Fields and that’s Ohio State guard Thayer Munford.
Munford has plenty of experience so he doesn’t come into the NFL with a need to be trained at the position, although he was among those guards who initially played tackle. He started at left tackle for the nation’s leading offense when Fields was quarterback for the Buckeyes.
Munford had been an overweight (360-plus) high school lineman who struggled with grades and had a difficult home situation but then blossomed with the Buckeyes. He came into his final Ohio State season as the nation’s top-ranked returning tackle, according to Pro Football Focus. He moved to guard and scouts say they saw a gain in effectiveness. It’s likely he’ll play there in the NFL, but with the 6-foot-6 frame and long arms he could easily move back to tackle.
“The fact that he’s come back now and played guard and really looked better at guard than he did at tackle—he’s had a really nice year,” Reese’s Senior Bowl director Jim Nagy told the Associated Press.
Munford had a leg injury his final year but it cost only one game and shouldn’t be an issue. It will be one thing to explore at the combine, which is mainly of benefit to teams because of medical of exams and analysis. Strength and speed in shorter distances, as well as the shuttles is more important for a lineman than the 40 time.
The Bears Fit
Because he knows Fields already, it would be an easier fit. Coming from an offense known under Ryan Day for passing is a help, as well. The approach for the Bears is going to be best five linemen on the field and then figure out who plays where. As a tackle or guard, Munford would be able to fit in and likely would cost the Bears either their third-round or a later pick.