Bears roll dice on tight end Adam Shaheen in second round of NFL draft

If you need help familiarizing yourself with new Bears tight end Adam Shaheen, there's a 3-minute highlight montage on YouTube to get you started. It's rare footage for a second-round draft pick, a player the Bears scooped up with the 45th overall pick Friday night.

Those black-and-purple uniforms you don't recognize? Those are the Ashland University Eagles, a Division II team in Ohio.

Those unfamiliar stadiums? Venues from around the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.

That monster of a man, physically tormenting so many of his much smaller opponents? Well, that's Shaheen, the 6-foot-6, 278-pound pass-catching weapon the Bears chose to add to their offense Friday.

The footage offers visual evidence of the production Shaheen enjoyed last season, posting 57 catches and 867 yards and setting a Division II single-season record for touchdown catches by a tight end with 16.

"Any small school player we watch, we really want to see him dominate that level of competition," general manager Ryan Pace said. "And this guy definitely did that."

Shaheen is capable of jumping over defensive backs to haul in 50-50 balls in the red zone. He's capable of plowing over defenders after the catch too.

"For a guy of his size, his athleticism jumps out," Pace said. "He's one of those guys when you're watching tape, you have to keep looking down and saying, 'Man, this guy's 6-6, 278 pounds and he moves like that?"

But that was all on a lower level. Much lower. So the Bears' bet that Shaheen's athleticism and production will translate to the NFL offers their latest gamble on potential and Pace's obvious willingness to dive into a mystery.

Shaheen was actually an early entrant into the draft, too, forfeiting his final year of eligibility at Ashland.

"I did all I could really do to help my draft stock there," he said.

A night after triggering the most talked-about trade of this year's draft — Thursday night's move for quarterback Mitch Trubisky — the Bears opened Friday's second round with another trade. This time, in a deal with the Cardinals, they slid back nine slots and netted two additional picks.

That kept Pace from participating in a mini-run on defensive backs. Three safeties and two cornerbacks came off the board Friday before the Bears made their second-round selection. In a draft loaded with defensive talent, Pace has yet to add to that side of the ball and enters Saturday with four picks to possibly do so.

On Friday, however, the Bears went with Shaheen, whose college athletic career actually started on the basketball hardwood at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown. Shaheen said he was only 6-foot-4 and 195 pounds when he graduated high school. So it was his eye-popping college growth spurt and, by his own admission, a 2013 Saturday watching an Ohio State-Wisconsin game that triggered his return to football and his migration to Ashland.

"I had a bug in me," he said.

His basketball background is noticeable, Pace said. And the Bears GM is no stranger to tight ends with that kind of agility and skill set. He saw it up close while watching Jimmy Graham flourish for five seasons with the Saints.

"Half the time, it’s like these tight ends are going up for a rebound and boxing out," Pace said. "... When we talk about body control and catching radius, the ball is not always going to be on target. And Adam has the ability to do that."

Just as Trubisky will face questions about making only 13 starts at North Carolina, Shaheen will be shadowed by doubts regarding the level of competition he faced. He gets it.

"I know there's a knock on Division II football," he said. "But one thing (critics) don't account for is they don't (often) call pass interference in Division II. So people were just mugging me left and right. That's something we had to deal with."

Now Shaheen will have to deal with the expectations of being a high draft pick and whether he can help energize an offense that could use help in the passing game. The Bears, meanwhile, will need to fill out their 2017 class Saturday, progressing in a draft that has been anything but predictable to this point.

dwiederer@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @danwiederer

ADAM SHAHEEN

Round 2, Pick 45 * TE

Ashland * 6-6, 278

On the field: Shaheen set a Division II single-season record for touchdown catches last season with 16. He totaled 57 catches for 867 yards.

Upside: Shaheen is a monster of a man and has a basketball background, supplementing his size with agility and body control.

Downside: Shaheen is only an ordinary blocker and played in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. He will face a huge jump in competition in the NFL.

You should know: Shaheen weighed 195 pounds when he graduated high school and said at the combine that his significant weight gain in recent years can be attributed in part to "a lot of Chipotle burritos."

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