Cody Whitehair was thrust into action at center when second-year man Hroniss Grasu was injured, despite originally learning to play offensive guard after being selected with the 56th overall pick by the Chicago Bears in this year's NFL Draft. The Bears liked him at guard, but the coaching staff also saw his development week over week, and felt comfortable moving him to center permanently (for the season) with the addition of Josh Sitton from the Green Bay Packers.
Each week, Whitehair gets stronger, no doubt due to the mentoring of former NFL great, and Future Hall of Famer, Kevin Mawae, who came to the Bears originally as a coaching intern this past offseason. The coaches liked Mawae's presence so much, they kept him on as an assistant coach after his internship, and he's had a tremendous impact on Cody Whitehair over the last few weeks.
So much of an impact, that Pro Football Focus has named Cody Whitehair the seventh-best rookie in all of the NFL through the first three games (LINK).
"The former Kansas State left tackle has had his issues moving to center, but those begin and end with penalties. Cody Whitehair has shown no noticeable drop-off playing between two Pro-Bowlers in Josh Sitton and Kyle Long; the rookie currently owns the fourth-highest run-blocking grade of any NFL center this season."
A month before the 2016 Draft, our very own EJ Snyder had an in-depth look at Whitehair as not only an NFL prospect, but as a potential Chicago Bears prospect (LINK - and make sure to go back and read the comments in there).
"The Bears need a right guard. The lack of an impact player at that spot cost them plenty during the 2015 season. The addition of player who can lock that spot down and perform at a high level will boost the entire offense. The receivers will have more time to get open, Cutler will have more time to throw and the young running backs will have bigger holes to run through before they make contact with the defense. The addition of a player a skilled a Cody Whitehair could elevate the Bears offense in the little, unseen and totally impactful ways that would make any offensive lineman proud."
Snyder also did some digging right after the Draft, when questions arose as to how much center he'd played along the way. This was largely due to Bears fans questioning what exactly the team would do with a player like Whitehair. At the time, not everyone was bought in on the pick, including Lester Wiltfong, Jr.
Not a fan of that #Bears pick— Lester A Wiltfong Jr (@wiltfongjr) April 30, 2016
@wiltfongjr @CloudyFuture Whitehair can snap. If I was Grasu I'd drink an extra protein shake right now.— EJ Snyder (@thedraftsmanFB) April 30, 2016
Shortly afterwards, Snyder came across this Vine... Whitehair snapping to Dak Prescott for the Senior Bowl.
Yes folks, Whitehair has snapped before...Cody Whitehair snapping to Dak Prescott #seniorbowl https://t.co/EeuaGQzLse— Jeff Risdon (@JeffRisdon) February 25, 2016
We never knew that Grasu would be placed on Injured Reserve or that Josh Sitton would be signed, but here we are. And so far, Cody Whitehair is holding his own between the two Pro Bowl offensive guards that are flanking him.