Chicago Bears: Adam Shaheen should push for starting job

Rookie Adam Shaheen should get the first crack at being the starting tight end for the Chicago Bears in 2017.

2017 second-round pick Adam Shaheen was a surprising selection to many fans of the Chicago Bears. After trading back a few spots in April’s NFL draft, the Bears took the Ashland tight end with the 45th overall selection. With so many other glaring holes on the roster (i.e. offensive tackle, safety, and cornerback), a rebuilding team taking a tight end that high was a bit of a head scratcher.

After getting over the initial shock, however, fans should welcome the idea of a 6-6, 275-pound tight end running down the middle of the field.

Shaheen comes from a Divison II college, so his level of completion faced is peanuts compared to other tight ends in this year’s class. However, when you watch the tape of Shaheen in college, he does exactly what you would expect a player of his size to do: Dominate.

He routinely made defenders look silly, swatting away potential tacklers like flies and simply outrunning anyone who has the size to bring him down. In 2016, “Baby Gronk”, as he’s known, had 867 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns, a school record.

The Bears have lacked a true threat at the tight end position ever since Martellus Bennett was traded following the 2015 season. Last year, the Bears got solid production out of Zach Miller (486 yards, four touchdowns), but injuries again plagued his season as he missed the final six games. Miller is now 32 years old, so his best days are far behind him. He’s a great guy in the locker room, but on game days, he’s hardly the difference maker that the Bears offense needs.

The other tight ends currently on the roster include Dion Sims, Daniel Brown, and Ben Braunecker. Sims, signed to a pretty expensive contract in free agency, is primarily a blocker and won’t strike fear into opposing defenses. Brown is a converted wide receiver who is still the learning the position, and Braunecker — while very athletic — has shown nothing to instill confidence that he can play tight end in the NFL.

So, Shaheen has a clear path to significant playing time in 2017. His blocking isn’t stellar, but his size alone makes him an obstacle for defenders to try to go through. There’s no doubt, however, that Shaheen will make a name for himself as a pass catcher. Too big for safeties and too fast for linebackers to cover, he can be a mismatch from Day 1 and be a huge factor in the red zone.

As evidenced by his 26 touchdown catches in his final two collegiate seasons, Shaheen can (and probably will) be the primary target whenever the Bears offense sniffs the end zone.

In a rebuilding year, why potentially stunt Shaheen’s growth by having watch from the sidelines? The learning curve from Division II football to the NFL will be steep, but he might as well get a hands-on learning experience. There’s no guarantee Shaheen will develop into a starting-caliber NFL tight end, let alone a Pro Bowler, but he deserve the chance to prove he can. 2017 is the perfect time for him to start stating his case.

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