A great tight end has been missing since Ditka left, and that was a million year ago.
On April 27th the Bears drafted a tight end for the twenty-seventh time in the Super Bowl era. What are the chances Adam Shaheen will become the best tight end the Bears drafted since 1967? Actually pretty good.
If we use the standard of sixty-four games (four full seasons) in a Bears uniform as a minimum standard for a successful draft pick, only two of the prior twenty-six tight ends lasted that long in Chicago. If we add in the games they played for other teams as well, then the number of four year men rises from two to four. For the record, I counted Dustin Lyman as a tight end draftee even though he actually played linebacker in college. The Bears converted him to tight end, but in any case, he didn’t play sixty-four games either for the Bears or in the NFL. The list also includes Lance Louis, apparently a college tight end who switched to guard in the NFL. He also never reached sixty-four games.
The moment Adam Shaheen plays in his first game as a Bears tight end, he will move past the ten men who never appeared in a single Bears game. That puts Shaheen seventeenth on the list. When he plays in his third game, he will move up to sixteenth. When he plays in his thirteenth game as a Bear, Shaheen will rank as the fourteenth most successful tight end the Bears drafted in the Super Bowl era. If he manages to play two full seasons and thirty-two games, he will become the eleventh best tight end the Bears drafted. If he manages to reach forty-three games he moves up another four slots, and will stand as the seventh best tight end the team drafted. If Shaheen plays four full years he will tie Jim Thornton for second place for most games played for the Bears by a tight end drafted by the Bears. If Shaheen plays eighty games he will tie Kellen Davis for most games played in a Bears uniform by a tight end drafted by the Bears. That means he needs to last for five years to reach the top. When he plays in his eighty-first game, he will reach the top.
A couple of acknowledgements need to be made. Greg Olsen, still catching passes for the Carolina Panthers, stands head and shoulders above the rest of the tight end midgets. The ghost of George Halas seems to haunt the Bears fandom still. Olsen was dismissed as merely a pass-catching tight end as if that were a bad thing. Olsen has been a great tight end since he entered the league, but the Bears let him go because he didn’t match their scheme at the time. Apparently the ability to get open and receive passes had no place on a team that struggled to throw the football. Bears fandom voiced little complaint when Olsen left because he didn’t match the vision of the smash-mouth football persona favored by the Ditkaphiles.
During Olsen’s last three seasons on the Bears, he played alongside fellow tight end Kellen Davis. In my memory Davis dropped a lot of passes, but caught enough to encourage people to think he might become a great tight end. In reality, they threw the ball to Davis forty-four times in 2012, but he only caught nineteen of them. He eventually won a Super Bowl ring with Seattle after catching three of the four passes the Seahawks threw to him. In the four years since he left the Bears, the Seahawks, Lions, and Jets threw a combined nineteen passes to Davis, and he caught six of them, including two for touchdowns. Olsen and Davis exist as polar opposites. The three years Olsen and Davis played together in Chicago, 2008, 2009, and 2010, represent the golden age of tight ends drafted by the Bears.
As for Mike Ditka, for those keeping score at home, he was not only one of the Bears greatest draft choices, he also was the first draft choice ever made by the Houston Oilers. Virtually every player of note got drafted by two teams in the early sixties, so it’s hard to say if the Oilers made a good or bad pick. Ditka entered the NFL before the cheating, lying, and constant rule changing reach its zenith in the war between the two leagues. 1967 represents the year sanity returned to draft day, so that’s when a reasonable assessment of drafting success can be made.
In the 1950’s Washington owner George Preston Marshall once experienced a brief panic attack when a head coach from another team jokingly asked him why he drafted a Black man. Before 1960 the draft was so primitive and the teams knew so little about the draft picks they made, they weren’t even sure of the race of the man they chose. In the case of at least the Redskins, ignoring Black players was a priority. For all practical purposes, the modern draft began in 1967. Ditka is to Bears tight ends what Sid Luckman is to quarterbacks, a ghostly remnant of ancient history, and a reminder that the team really hasn’t been very good on draft day since 1967.
What are the chances Adam Shaheen will be the best tight end the Bears drafted since 1967? Unfortunately, they are pretty good.
All the tight ends drafted by the Bears since 1967:
|Last Name||First Name||P||DP||College||PTS||AY||DY||AG||DG||SB1||HOF||ADCS|
|Louis||Lance||TE||246||San Diego State||13||5||3||61||41||0||0||123|
|Harrison||Todd||TE||134||North Carolina State||7||1||0||1||0||0||0||9|
PTS: All picks chosen between 1 and 20 gain the team two points if the player makes the team. Every twenty picks adds one point to the value of the pick. The highest point total for any pick 17 points for Bob Fisher because he went 323rd in 1980 and actually played in the league. The total reflects the points earned by all of the successful draft picks.
AY: All years played in the NFL.
DY: All years played for the team that drafted the player.
AG: All games played in the NFL.
DG: All games played for the team that drafted the player.
SB1: Every time a player wins a Super Bowl ring, the team gets one point for every year of that player’s NFL service. Losing players earn one point each. Since Tom Brady played in seven Super Bowls, his chart goes from SB1 to SB7.
HOF: Any draft pick that makes it to the Hall of Fame gets 50 points.
ADCS: After Drafter Clock Score for each player. Consider this the number of points a team earned for drafting the player in question. Greg Olsen and Kellen Davis amassed 237 and 233 points respectively, so far, but they’re still active. They are the best draft choices the Bears made at tight end since 1967.