The second round can be a secret stockhold for teams to scrounge up first-round level talent who fall via too many question marks. Whether it be character issues that plagued a college career, unease over lackluster measurables, or concerns over his transition to the pro game, second rounders bring more risk yet the round usually houses the finer sleepers of a draft. So when the Bears selected the tight end out of Ashland Adam Shaheen 45th overall, it felt like Ryan Pace nailed another pick.
After tearing up Division II football, the relatively unknown six foot six, 278-pound beast boasts 24 rep strength on 4.38-second 20-yard shuttle quickness. A prime red zone threat, his dancer-like feet grant him spectacular route running. His athleticism on such a massive frame combine for a dangerous combination and despite playing against vastly inferior talent at a pretty unrecognized university in Ohio, his physical gifts alone warranted a second-round selection.
However, besides the apparent talent, Adam Shaheen’s rookie campaign had kinda missed something. He rarely saw the field due to poor blocking skills, a necessity for a tight end in a John Fox system and only stumbled into the starting lineup after the starting Zach Miller had his season ended. And even then, he still only pulled off 127 yards and three touchdowns to round out his season. For a tight end projected to be an instant contributor offensively, the numbers were far from envisioned.
But to be fair, Shaheen’s first season really didn’t put him in the finest of circumstances. In a system almost completely omitting explosive passing and a fellow rookie under center, he really couldn’t do much. Rarely did the offense ask for his pass catching abilities and for a rookie, this made it nearly impossible to get some momentum rolling. He did flash his big-play capabilities from time to time, but Fox seemed to outright ignore him at times. And obviously missing the final three games didn’t do any favors for him.
Now to say a tight end with twelve catches to his name will be pivotal in an offense looking to explode in the upcoming season feels a little odd but Shaheen genuinely has every chip stacked in his favor to be a top-tier tight end real soon.
First off, new head coach Matt Nagy brings along a tight end friendly system with him. While it won’t be a carbon copy of the Travis Kelce concentrated offense from Kansas City, Nagy still plans on employing the tight end in the passing game. So enter Shaheen. An athletic pass-catching tight end with splendid footwork and strong hands match Nagy’s fancy in an offense.
Secondly, Trubisky is poised for a breakout year. It may not a Jared Goff-Carson Wentz levels of meteoric rise but Nagy has shown to be an adept quarter whisperer. Alex Smith vastly improved under Nagy’s wing, increasing his yards per game average from 178.5 yards to 231.4 yards and brought his interception rate from 2.9 percent to 1.4 percent.
And while Trubisky didn’t take the league by storm, he displayed a powerful and accurate arm with some highlights in the scramble. In spite of a restrictive passing system, he still holds the Bears rookie passing yards season record with 2193 yards. And inevitably, his steps forward should have a trickle-down effect on Shaheen.
In a hopefully similar case, Carson Wentz’s rookie year only took the Eagles’ offense for 337.4 yards per game but in his Pro Bowl sophomore year, the Eagles went for 365.6 yards per game. If Trubisky can improve even half as much, the entire offense should reap his benefits.
Thirdly, the tools are already there for Shaheen. Only benched for system concerns, his big-play ability and red zone capability still shined through the lackluster numbers and limited playing time. He flaunted his athleticism against the Packers, turning a dump off screen into a 31 yard gain. He displayed his pass catching ability with a red zone sliding touchdown grab against the Lions. When given the chance, he can flourish.
If utilized properly, like by a coach with quarterback experience and a tight end friendly system, Shaheen will be a total weapon for the Bears this season. As the rest of the offense develops at the speed a bullet after a masterful free agency showing, Shaheen has all the chips in place to evolve into a top-tier tight end under Nagy.