One bright spot for the Chicago Bears during a painful 3-13 season in 2016 was the play of the offensive line.
Despite Kyle Long playing just eight games, the Bears allowed the seventh fewest sacks in the league last season. Chicago running backs averaged 4.6 yards per carry, sixth best in the NFL, and rookie Jordan Howard finished second in the league in rushing yards (1,313).
The Bears were horrible last year but it was in no way the fault of the offensive line. If Long returns healthy next season, playing alongside fellow Pro Bowl G Josh Sitton and C Cody Whitehair, Chicago could have the best interior offensive line in the NFL in 2017.
At offensive tackle, Charles Leno and Bobby Massie were serviceable, although not stellar. Apparently, that wasn't good enough for GM Ryan Pace, who aggressively pursued Ricky Wagner in free agency -- he signed a five-year deal with Detroit Lions worth $47.5 million.
In spite of the relative success of Chicago's front five last year, it's clear Pace wants an upgrade on the edge.
With that in mind, here are seven mid-round offensive tackles the Bears should consider during the 2017 NFL Draft.
Antonio Garcia, Troy (6-6, 302)
Garcia was a three-year starter at Troy who earned first-team all-conference honors as a senior in 2016. He's one of the most athletic and fleet-of-foot offensive tackles in this class. He's excellent in pass protection and works very well in space, which would make him a solid fit for Chicago's zone-blocking system. Garcia struggles to maintain weight and does not bring much power as a run blocker, but in terms of a potential long-term blindside protector, the Bears won't find a better prospect than Garcia in the third round or later.
Projected: 3rd Round
David Sharpe, Florida (6-6, 343)
Sharpe started two years at left tackle for the Gators, using his massive size and arm length (35 3/8 inches) to swallow up collegiate competition. He works very well in short areas and creates outstanding push in the run game, yet Sharpe is very stiff and does not have great lateral agility. He'll probably have to slide inside to guard at the next level but Sharpe's girth and strength cannot be ignored. As a swing guard who can slide outside in a pinch, Sharpe's versatility and power could make him an attractive option for the Bears in the third round.
Projected: 3rd Round
Julie'n Davenport, Bucknell (6-7, 318)
Davenport started all 44 games at left tackle during his collegiate career, earning all-conference honors all three seasons. He was a two-time team captain and was named to multiple All-American lists last season. Davenport feasted on a lack of elite competition in college, using his size and brute strength to outmuscle defenders. He's still raw but Davenport is a physical specimen who could quickly develop into a starter at the next level.
Projected: 3rd-4th Round
Will Holden, Vanderbilt (6-7, 311)
Holden was a three-year starter who has experience at both tackle positions, although he spent most of his time on the left edge. He has relatively short arms and may not have the natural athleticism or movement ability to play left tackle at the next level. He gets good push in the run game and he's technically sound, with very good upper-body strength and balance. Holden has a lot of potential as a starting right tackle in the NFL.
Projected: 3rd-4th Round
Adam Bisonwaty, Pittsburgh (6-6, 304)
Bisnowaty was a four-year starter at left tackle for the Panthers, earning first-team All-ACC honors in 2015 and 2016. In a phone booth, he uses his above average power and good leverage to outwork defenders at the point of attack. Bisnowaty struggles with athletic edge rushers, so he'll likely have to move to right tackle in the pros. His ceiling isn't very high but Bisnowaty has a low-end starter skill set.
Projected: 4th Round
Conor McDermott, UCLA (6-8, 307)
McDermott started two and a half seasons at left tackle for the Bruins. A former high school basketball player, he has very good feet and quickness, allowing him to mirror defenders in space. He is a bit stiff and bends at the waist, so he has technical flaws to clean up, which might necessitate a move to the right side in the NFL. His lack of power is also a concern but his size alone would make McDermott a swing-tackle candidate for the Bears.
Projected: 4th-5th Round
Sam Tevi, Utah (6-5, 311)
A converted defensive tackle, Tevi has experience starting at both right and left tackle. His biggest strength is his footwork and quickness, which allows him to consistently cut off speed rushes around the edge. Tevi doesn't have great power and he's stiff, so his upside might be as a swing tackle.
Projected: 5th Round
The Pick: Julie'n Davenport
I don't foresee the Bears addressing the offensive line before the third round, if they address it at all. Leno and Massie are not Pro Bowlers but they also aren't liabilities.
Yet a player like Davenport might be too good to pass up, especially if he drops to the fourth round. The All-American left tackle can play both sides of the football and his best football is still ahead of him. He's a developmental player but if he reaches his ceiling, Davenport may project as a long-term starter in Chicago.
At the very least, his size, athleticism and versatility should give him plenty of value as a swing tackle.