The Chicago Bears’ haul from the 2017 NFL Draft was widely criticized by pundits, insiders, and experts. To be fair, some of the criticism was warranted (at the time). After all, the team was investing in three small-school players, a safety who entered the draft with notable injury concerns, and a quarterback with just one year of starting experience.
A year later, however, and the perception of the five-man class is much different. Much has been made about Mitch Trubisky’s potential and his future, but three other second-year players have stood out to new head coach Matt Nagy. It’s impossible to judge a draft class after one year, but Nagy seems to see a ton of upside in three players drafted by GM Ryan Pace in 2017 who are expected to be key contributors in 2018.
You can watch Matt Nagy’s full press conference that followed Wednesday’s OTAs, but check out some highlights below:
Adam Shaheen is Larger Than Life
The tight end from Ashland (Ohio) University checks in at 6-6 and 270 pounds, and Nagy still comes away impressed by Shaheen’s sheer size.
“He’s bigger than I originally thought he was. His catching radius I would say I’d put in the same category. He has very natural hands. He’s a guy that fits our offense very well. So now it’s just a matter of how fast is he going to learn it and figure out the ins and outs of the different routes run.”
Shaheen figures to be more of an in-line tight end who blocks a little more often than Trey Burton when he is lined up at the “U” position, so it’s encouraging to hear Nagy talk about the second-year player’s potential in the pass-catching game. Only 30.5 percent of Shaheen’s total snaps came on pass plays where he was out running a pattern, which suggests he was underutilized in that facet of the game as a rookie. Even though Burton is expected to garner a bulk of the attention as a receiving tight end, Shaheen will likely get more reps than he did last season.
Last season, Demetrius Harris – who played a position in Kansas City similar to what Shaheen figures to play this season – was in on 516 offensive snaps. The Chiefs distributed Harris’ playing time more evenly than the Bears did with Shaheen, as 49.2 percent of his snaps were passing snaps and 42.2 percent came as a run blocker.
Eddie Jackson Can Do It All
Jackson was one of the more intriguing safety prospects of the 2017 draft class and was someone who stood out early and often as a rookie for the Bears. But I can’t help but think the book on Jackson needs to be updated, as he has dispelled many things that I’m convinced dropped his draft stock.
The Alabama product has long had a knack for creating turnovers and making big plays, but he also showed strong instincts and a willingness (and an ability) to tackle in the open field. Those were two things that scouting reports didn’t seem to think Jackson had in him. So to hear Nagy talk about Jackson as a well-rounded defensive back is a good sign.
“He reminds me of a bit of a player who can do it all. He can hit. He has great ball skills. He has good speed. Going into it now this year, being a second-year guy, to play where he is at this year want him to get just a little bit better from last year. I was impressed with him.”
Feeling “Giddy” About Tarik Cohen
Cohen was the most electrifying player on the Bears’ roster last season, so it should come as no surprise that Nagy is excited to work with him in this offense.
“He’s actually the one kid on this team that I knew had a lot of talent. He comes out here and runs every route the right way, he catches most balls, he doesn’t make a lot of mistakes, and you see how he is in the meeting rooms when he’s listening to the plays. … He’s a player, that for me, you get giddy about.”
A playmaker whenever he had the ball, Cohen was a threat as a pass catcher (out of the backfield, in the slot, or even lined up out wide), rusher (yeah, he ran the ball in 2017), a return specialist (one of the best, in fact), and even a passer (better watch your back, Mitch!).
What stands out most from Nagy’s quote was the part about how Cohen doesn’t make a lot of mistakes. We often discuss growth as something that shows up in improved statistics, but cutting down on mistakes from Year 1 to Year 2 shouldn’t be overlooked. Cohen was an exciting rookie, but wasn’t completely well-rounded as a player. Then again, he was a fourth-round pick from an FBS school, so it would have been unfair to expect him to be the complete package right away. But if Cohen continues to improve, the Bears will have quite the asset on the offensive side of the ball.