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Professional

Bears should start in trenches

James Daniels (68) is one of the only young offensive linemen the Bears can build around, but there is a lot of depth at the position in this year’s NFL Draft.
James Daniels (68) is one of the only young offensive linemen the Bears can build around, but there is a lot of depth at the position in this year’s NFL Draft.

INDIANAPOLIS – It is hard to find a more revered or legendary NFL general manager than Hall of Famer Jim Finks, who is best known for being the architect of the ’85 Bears, but also had success building the Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints.

Finks’ core principal was to build a team in the trenches and become a champion.

He oversaw Bears drafts from 1975-1983, and used first-round picks on defensive linemen Dan Hampton and Al Harris and offensive linemen Dennis Lick, Ted Albrecht, Keith Van Horne and Jimbo Covert.

He also drafted Revie Sorey, Dan Jiggetts, Kurt Becker, Tom Thayer and Mark Bortz, and signed Jay Hilgenberg as an undrafted rookie free agent on offense, and drafted Mike Hartenstine and Richard Dent, and claimed Steve McMichael on waivers on defense.

In that group, you will find every starter in the trenches for the ’85 Bears except for William Perry, and Finks found every one of them as rookies except for McMichael, who spent just one season in New England.

Though the 2020 Bears will have one of the more solid groups in the NFL on the defensive line with Akiem Hicks, Eddie Goldman, Bilal Nichols and Roy Robertson-Harris, the offensive line currently might just be the softest group on their depth chart.

Cody Whitehair and James Daniels look to be worth building around, but other than them ...

Has Ryan Pace been studying his Bears history and taking notes?

If he has, the O-line may just offer the best talent and depth of any group in the 2020 Draft, and with picks at 43 and 50, Pace could possibly find some real gems.

At tackle, Tristan Wirfs (Iowa), Jedrick Wills (Alabama), Mekhi Becton (Louisville) and Andrew Thomas (Georgia) are almost certain top-20 picks.

If one of them were to start to slide, the Bears should think really hard about moving up.

Next is a group including Austin Jackson (USC), Josh Jones (Houston), Prince Tega Wonogho (Auburn), Isaiah Wilson (Georgia), Luis Niang (TCU), Saahdiq Charles (LSU) and Ben Bartch (St. Johns), each of whom could go anywhere between 20 and 50.

Jackson and Jones will most likely be gone at 43, but Charles – who should be gone – could slip because of a somewhat mysterious suspension at LSU.

It’s something he acknowledges but isn’t anxious to go into detail on, saying Wednesday at the Combine, “It was just a mistake.

“It’s not a part of my life anymore, whatever I went through that led to the suspensions,” Charles said. “It was selfish and a stupid mistake, honestly. I moved forward from it.

“Judge me – the whole me – not just the mistake. I am a good guy. A great guy.”

A converted tight end who stole the show at Senior Bowl practices, Bartch will almost certainly be around at 43, and possibly even 50.

Out of tiny St. John’s College, he could suffer with the Bears from a bit of “Adam Shaheen syndrome,” but he thinks he changed the conversation in Mobile.

“I can’t necessarily speak for them,” Bartch said, “but I think I proved some things.”

If the Bears should look to shop inside, Wisconsin’s Tyler Biadasz, LSU’s Lloyd Cushenberry and Michigan’s Cesar Ruiz all played center in college, but are viewed by scouts equally at center or guard, and will all land somewhere between 25 and 60 on most draft boards.

Asked if he’s surprised to be considered a first-round prospect by some, Ruiz said, “If you look at the film, if you look at how I dominate people, if you look at my character, how smart I am, I have everything for a first-rounder.”

Cushenberry doesn’t care where he plays, he just wants to play.

“I feel like I have the versatility to play both,” he said. “I’ve been playing center. I’m obviously a smart guy who can make calls, I won’t have any problems with that. But I can play both positions.”

What these players all have in common is they are massive wide-bodies from winning programs, any one might be the best player available when the Bears pick – and it just so happens they’d meet one of their greatest needs.

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