Draft analysis: Bears’ investment in Shaheen, Burton, Sims makes TE low priority

Part 3 of a 10-part series previewing the NFL Draft and analyzing the Bears’ needs:

“You can never have enough tight ends” is not a football axiom. But in Matt Nagy’s offense, it might be true.

Nagy comes from Andy Reid offenses that rely heavily on multiple tight ends. As Nagy explained to reporters at the NFL owners meetings last month in Orlando,  Florida, the Chiefs used “13” personnel — one running back, three tight ends — when they were short on wide receivers.

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South Dakota State tight end Dallas Goedert had 13 100-yard games in his final two seasons.(Daryl Wilson/
AP)

That said, the Bears are unlikely to be in the market for a tight end in the front end of the upcoming NFL Draft, because they already are heavily invested in the position. They signed Dion Sims to a three-year, $18 million contract in 2017. They used the 45th overall pick in the draft last year to get Ashland’s Adam Shaheen. And they paid top dollar to get Trey Burton in free agency this year, signing the former Eagle to a four-year, $32 million contract.

When the Bears signed Burton, it was thought they might cut Sims. But they plan to keep all three tight ends — with Sims at the “Y” (in-line) spot; Burton at the “U” (slot) position and Shaheen able to play both spots.

Signing Burton to a likely pass-catching role seemed to conflict with the development of Shaheen, who was touted as a big-play, Rob Gronkowski type of offensive threat, but was used mostly as a blocker in limited snaps as a rookie.

“I think we can use all our tight ends,” general manager Ryan Pace said. “I think the Super Bowl champions are a recent example of that, of using a lot of tight ends. They’re all valuable weapons. They’re all a little different. I think they all complement each other. It fits together nicely.”

Asked if signing Burton will affect Shaheen’s snap counts in 2018, Pace said, “No. We see it as an advantage with them being together.”

This year’s tight end draft class is not considered as strong at the top as last season, when five tight ends — including Shaheen — were taken in the first 45 picks. But it is better than average, with better depth throughout.

And there’s a Shaheen-type near the top of the list. South Dakota State’s 6-4, 260-pound Dallas Goedert played nine-man football in high school. Like Shaheen, he was a bigger basketball recruit, who ended up walking on at South Dakota State and gained 60 pounds to become a dominant pass-catching threat at the FCS level, with 13 100-yard games in his final two seasons.

“I want to be a three-down tight end in the league, so I’m going to have to be able to block,” Goedert said at the combine. “I didn’t do a ton of blocking at South Dakota State, but when I did, I put my head in there. I have to work on it a little bit, but I’ve been doing it already when I’ve been training. I plan on getting a lot better at it and being one of the best tight ends in the league.”

Tight End

Grading the Bears’ need: Low. Even with Shaheen still on his rookie contract, the Bears rank fourth in the NFL in salary-cap space allotted to tight ends in 2018, according to spotrac.com. Sims ($6.33 million) has the 12th highest cap number in the league. Burton (5.675 million) is 13th.

On the roster: Burton ($8 million annual average value), Sims ($6 million), Shaheen ($1.47 million), Daniel Brown ($925,000), Ben Braunecker ($540,000), Colin Thompson ($555,000).

Top five draft prospects:

1. Dallas Goedert, South Dakota State: Had 72 receptions for 1,111 yards and seven touchdowns last year after 92 receptions for 1,293 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2016.

2. Hayden Hurst, South Carolina: Former Pittsburgh Pirates minor-league player with a 95 mph fastball. Will be 25 as a rookie this season.

3. Mike Gesicki, Penn State: Great athlete who could blossom in the NFL after playing a secondary role in Penn State’s Saquon Barkley-led offense.

4. Mark Andrews, Oklahoma: Mackey Award winner as the best tight end in the nation. In three seasons, Andrews had 22 touchdowns with only 112 receptions.

5. Jordan Akins, UCF: Former Texas Rangers minor-league player; converted wide receiver with big-play production for UCF in 2017.

I’m intrigued by: Wisconsin’s Troy Fumagalli, a Waubonsie Valley graduate, is a former walk-on who is missing the index finger on his left hand. He isn’t a great athlete but does have a knack for getting the job done. He is a late bloomer whose competitiveness goes a long way.

Draft facts

When: April 26-28.

Where: AT&T Stadium in
Arlington, Texas.

TV: ESPN, NFL Network and Fox-32.

The Bears’ seven picks: Round 1
(No. 8 overall), 2 (No. 39),
4 (Nos. 105 and 115), 5 (No. 145), 6 (No. 181) and 7 (No. 224).