It wasn’t Rob Gronkowski, Travis Kelce, or Jared Cook who earned the highest grade among tight ends from Pro Football Focus.
Shaheen’s 85.9 grade edged Kyle Rudolph (85.8) of the Minnesota Vikings, Coby Fleener (81.1, New Orleans Saints), and Jared Cook (79.1, Oakland Raiders) to take home top honors. The rookie from Division II Ashland University in Ohio played a season-high 46 snaps on Sunday, including 20 that came on passing plays. Shaheen hauled in all four targets thrown in his direction, gained 41 yards, and scored on a 1-yard touchdown pass from fellow rookie Mitch Trubisky.
Yes, the same Shaheen who was out-snapped by Daniel Brown in Week 10. Indeed, we are talking about the same Shaheen who has spent most of his rookie season playing on run snaps as a blocker. And we are definitely talking about the same Shaheen who was drafted by the Bears in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft.
Unfortunately, this is also the same Shaheen who didn’t see the field during the Bears’ final offensive drive in the team’s 27-24 loss to the Detroit Lions.
In PFF’s postgame recap, Shaheen earned the team’s second-highest grade because he was a factor as a blocker and pass catcher against the Lions. Shaheen earned a 77.8 run blocking grade on his 26 run snaps.
While the Bears have slow-played his development and involvement in the passing game, Shaheen has handled his run blocking tasks better than expected after not being asked to do much of it at college. If you’ll recall, Shaheen delivered a key block on Jordan Howard’s game-winning touchdown run back in Week 3. And if he had played enough snaps to qualify, Shaheen’s 72.4 receiving grade would rank as the 18th best in the NFL – just ahead of Jimmy Graham’s 72.2. As it stands, Shaheen’s overall grade of 72.2 ranks 20th among the leaderboard’s 69 qualifying tight ends.
Former Bears All-Pro center and current WSCR 670-AM analyst Olin Kruetz tweeted Shaheen has “got a chance to be great” and credited his position coach Frank Smith for guiding him in his first season. Smith is in his third year with the Bears and has 13 years of coaching experience, including five years with the New Orleans Saints before landing in Chicago in 2015. In New Orleans, Smith assisted the offensive line and helped the offensive staff with game preparation. Perhaps some of that experience is rubbing off on Shaheen’s strength as a blocker.
Shaheen’s progress down the stretch is one of the most important things to watch down the stretch in the season’s final six games. It would be a great sign to see Shaheen and Trubisky’s on-field relationship continue to blossom in the form of big plays and red zone scores. To see Shaheen reach a point in his development where he grades among the best at his position shows the kind of progress he has made since the start of training camp.