Be honest with yourself for a second. Do the Bears have anyone of their roster that can be trusted to play and contribute at the tight end position this season? The answer is no. And it’s not even close. Adam Shaheen blows, and if being flat out bad isn’t enough, he’s always hurt. Shaheen was the 45th player selected in the 2017 draft and has struggled athletically to play in the new NFL. The position has morphed into an extension of a Wide Receiver. Slow, plodding, block first Tight Ends are no longer an NFL commodity. This fact is especially true in Matt Nagy’s uber-creative, hair on fire, offense. When he was drafted, Shaheen was compared to Antonio Gates, he is now more comparable to Kevin White. With his height, a healthy Shaheen can be a valued red zone option, especially when he’s split out wide against a shorter corner. However, he will never be the type of guy who can stretch the field, which what was expect when you select a TE in the second round. Here are Shaheen’s career stats against a list of the tight ends that were drafted after the 3rd year pro from Ashland College, whatever the fuck that is:
The actual stats are not terribly bad in comparison to the others, but keep in mind that every single one of these players was drafted in the 4th round or later. As if that doesn’t paint enough of a picture of a player that can be classified as somewhere between a stretch and a bust, here is a list of All-Pro players that were selected after Shaheen:
- JuJu Smith-Schuster
- Alvin Kamara
- Kareem Hunt
- James Connor
- Eddie Jackson
- Tarik Cohen
- George Kittle
Seeing the names Cohen and Jackson on this list saves some face for Ryan Pace, but these guys were chosen in late rounds, where it’s perfectly acceptable and often genius to take a flyer on a guy with some hidden upside. The 2nd round is not the place to try to show people how smart you are, in fact, it’s a draft place that can get you fired for failures.
If you were to re-do the 2017 NFL Draft, I do not see a scenario in which Shaheen gets selected anywhere sooner than round 5. Overvaluing a player in the draft happens almost 50% of the time; guys simply don’t work out sometimes, that’s just what happens. What really hurts the Bears is that Mitch Trubisky could really use that reliable, possession-type tight end that could serve as a safety blanket similar to what Jason Whitten was to Dak Prescott at the end of Whitten’s career. Hot routes and third read tight end receptions are the types of plays that extend drives. This is currently a glaring hole in a Bears offense that desperately needs this role to be successful.
The blame for the lack of a reliable tight end does not, however, fall only all on the fragile shoulders of Adam Shaheen. 2018 free agent signee Trey Burton had himself a very strong regular season, accounting for 54 catches for 569 yards and 6 TDs. Then the playoffs started and Burton was either physically or mentally unable to play in the most important Bears game since 2010. This very odd occurrence was then followed by an offseason and preseason in which Burton has still not fully recovered from a minor surgery that reported took place sometime in March, almost six months ago.
There is no question, that if healthy, Burton will be a weapon for Mitch Trubisky. However, that is a huge “if,” Each guy has about three weeks left until the opener to get healthy, until then, the entire organization and fan base cannot feel comfortable relying on Burton or Shaheen.