If a team is going to take a shot on a seventh-round offensive lineman, it might as well increase its chances of success by taking someone as versatile as Lachavious Simmons.
The Bears picked Simmons, a relatively unknown player out of Tennessee State, at No. 227 knowing that he could wind up at any of the five positions on the line. He came up as a defensive tackle in high school, then started at guard and tackle in college in addition to frequently working at center in practice.
That range bodes well not only for his long-term future, but it also boosts his candidacy to make the roster this season as a backup.
“We just saw an athletic kid, and we knew if we gave him some time to develop, he could be really good,” Tennessee State coach Rod Reed said. “He just continued to progress every year and learned to do multiple things, and he’s a really tough kid. He’s one of those guys you never had to worry about — very goal-oriented.
“Always upbeat, man. I never really saw the kid have a down day or come in dragging. He was always going to come in and get it done and be a leader.”
But that’s only part of why Reed loves him.
Simmons, who goes by “Pig,” is from Selma, Alabama, and grew up working on his family’s farm. That’s where he has been doing his workouts during an unconventional offseason in which players have not been allowed at Halas Hall.
With a farming background, there’s no question about his work ethic. Flipping tractor tires and throwing bales of hay were recreational activities for him as a kid.
“He’s a big old country boy,” Reed said. “When he wasn’t here, he was home working out on the farm, hauling hay, building boat docks, brick masonry — whatever the case may be. He’s done all of that with his dad. He’s used to hard work.”
He proved that, in part, by making the Ohio Valley Conference honor roll as a red-shirt junior for carrying a 3.25 GPA or higher while balancing the demands of playing football.
Simmons’ bid to secure a roster spot — never a guarantee for someone picked so late — begins next month. At 6-5, 315 pounds, he’ll probably begin that quest at guard. He started seven games at left guard and five at left tackle last season.
“Right away, his size and length jump out,” general manager Ryan Pace said. “These are the type of guys that our offensive line coach, Juan Castillo, loves to work with, just for that body type. . . . There’s just a lot of upside with him.”
Turning around the offensive line is one of the biggest challenges Castillo and the Bears face. They went into last season thinking they had one of the best units in the NFL but struggled throughout the season. Because of contract situations, however, the team moves forward with most of the same personnel.
The Bears are likely locked into left tackle Charles Leno, left guard James Daniels, center Cody Whitehair and right tackle Bobby Massie as starters. Right guard looks like a competition between Rashaad Coward and free agent Germain Ifedi, with the loser of that competition slotted as a backup.
With those six in place, that leaves two or three spots for nine linemen on the roster. That group includes Packers 2016 second-round pick Jason Spriggs and rookie Arlington Hambright, whom the Bears chose out of Colorado one spot ahead of Simmons.
“I’m a guy who can compete on the first day,” Simmons said. “I’m a blue-collar guy who grew up on a farm, throwing hay bales — disciplined. My hard work, it can match anybody’s.”