When the Chicago Bears drafted Adam Shaheen in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft, it didn’t look like there would be a clear path to immediate playing time.
Further, it didn’t make sense to rush the tight end to make the transition from Division II football to life in the NFL. Not when the team already had tight end Zach Miller occupying a starting role, and then signed free agent Dion Sims in hopes of developing him into a dual threat. But as time has passed, some opinions might have changed over at Halas Hall.
ESPN Chicago’s Jeff Dickerson writes that Miller might be on the roster bubble for 2017, which is something that could lead to more playing time for Shaheen. But it doesn’t stop there. Dickerson goes on to write that Shaheen is the rookie who could earn a starting job in Week 1.
Shaheen earned positive reviews during the Bears offseason program, and because of the question marks throughout the wide receiver corps, the team could throw out a starting lineup with two tight ends – especially if the team cuts ties with Miller before the season opener.
The 6-foot-6, 277-pound tight end wowed scouts by overwhelming and dominating the Division II scene with high-end pass-catching skills. And while he has a long way to go before he can prove he can be that kind of impact player at the NFL level, things have gone well enough so far to where he should receive ample opportunity during training camp at Bourbonnais to show he can get it done.
This kind of leap of faith would show how much the coaching staff believes in Shaheen’s floor as a rookie starter and his upside moving forward.
It’s worth pointing out that Shaheen isn’t the only rookie Dickerson sees getting playing time early and often despite their rookie status.
Tarik Cohen, one of the team’s two fourth-round picks, might not be limited to just special teams duties as a return specialist. It appears as if the Bears are impressed enough with Cohen’s development that he could turn out to be Jordan Howard’s backup. And that would be quite the leap for the pint-sized running back with speed to burn
The very crowded running backs room currently features Jeremy Langford as the No. 2 back, but offseason surgery could force him to miss some time in the preseason. Langford’s future was already on shaky ground heading into this summer, and we are less than a year removed from seeing him lose his starting job because injury and another player taking advantage of increased opportunities.
At first glance, this draft class didn’t look to have a rookie who was expected to step into a significant role. But depending on how training camp plays out, the Bears could have two.