Bears go small-school route on day three

Bears fourth-round pick, S Eddie Jackson, Alabama

Bears fourth-round pick, S Eddie Jackson, Alabama

With faith in his scouting department, Chicago Bears General Manager Ryan Pace targeted small-school players on the final day of the 2017 NFL Draft.

Sandwiched around the fourth-round pick of Alabama safety Eddie Jackson, the Bears sandwiched the selections of North Carolina A&T RB Tarik Cohen and Kutztown T Jordan Morgan.

The Bears started the day by moving up five spots, trading the No. 117 and 197 overall picks to the Los Angeles Rams for the fifth pick in the fourth round (No. 112 overall) and selected DE Eddie Jackson from Alabama, a two-time All-SEC performer.

With the 13th pick in the fourth round (No. 119 overall), the Bears selected RB Tarik (TA-reek) Cohen from North Carolina A&T. Tarik, a speedy 5-6, 176-pounder, became the first player to win MEAC Offensive Player of the Year honors three times.

Then with the third pick in the fifth round, the Bears selected 6-3, 309-pound OL Jordan Morgan from Kutztown University in Pennsylvania, who started all 43 games of his career.

Pace said he felt comfortable with the players chosen, whether they were from a household college program or a lower-level school. “Yeah, that’s a good question. I give credit to our scouts and our coaches and all of the work that we’ve done. There’s so much that goes into this and there’s so much knowledge gained on these players that makes John and I feel more comfortable when we’re making these decisions. So, whether it’s a one-year starter or a small school player or a guy coming off injury, we’ve thoroughly researched these things to feel good about them. I think in regards to the small school thing, we’ve all had players that we’ve been part of that and have been highly successful. I look at Jordan Morgan today and I hate to make comparisons to players, but we took a guy in New Orleans, Jahri Evans, who ended up being a great player from Bloomsburg. So, I think you believe what you see on tape. You have conviction on players. I’ve said this before that I feel like when we have a consensus in the building on a player, those decisions are fun to make and exciting to make and I’m really excited to see what some of these guys do on this stage, because we’re confident in their abilities.”

Jackson, a 6-0, 194-pounder from Lauderdale Lakes, Florida, owns the Alabama record for career interception return yards with 303 on nine interceptions. He was a first team All-SEC selection and a second team All-American in 2015 after making the transition to safety. He led the team in interceptions that year with six, two of which he returned for touchdowns. He then earned second team All-SEC honors last season despite playing in only eight games before suffering an injury.

Cohen, nicknamed “The Human Joystick”,  helped lead the Aggies to a 9-3 regular-season record in 2016 and a berth in the FCS Playoffs. His 2016 campaign was a record-breaking one. He set single-season school records in rushing (1,588) and touchdowns (19) and earned All-America honors from four different outlets. Cohen leaves college as the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference’s all-time leading rusher with 5,619 yards and its first three-time offensive player of the year. The Slant…NFL Draft Guide shared this perspective:

A two-time little All-America first team selection, Morgan started all 43 games in his Golden Bear career at Kutztown. This season he was became the first offensive lineman in PSAC history to be named PSAC East Offensive Athlete of the Year. READ MORE

Bears pluck small-school TE Shaheen with second-round choice

Adam Shaheen, TE Ashland, becomes Bears second-round pick.

Adam Shaheen, TE Ashland, becomes Bears second-round pick.

A day following their surprise choice of QB Mitchell Trubisky, the Chicago Bears doubled down with the selection of small school TE Adam Shaheen, a fast-rising prospect with rare size and athletic ability.

Shaheen shot up draft boards since the end of the season, displaying the size, catching radius, and run after the catch skills that teams crave in the modern-day NFL. A former basketball player, Shaheen possesses the ball skills but lacks the fundamental in-line blocking ability he’ll need to become a consistent all-around force.

“I’m speechless right now but I’ll be ready to go to work in the morning.” Regarding the transition he faces, Shaheen remarked, “Just how quickly I can, adapt to this level. I think it’s something that I’m very capable of, the Bears do too. I’m just really excited to get to work and get grinding and show everybody what I can do.”

Shaheen knew his opportunity to play at the highest level might come when he noticed some buzz before the year. “At the beginning of this year, scouts started coming in and you know just physically when you look at the size and speed I had similar characteristics of these guys going in the NFL, so just knowing that, evened it out with the Division II level and I knew I would be able to play and have an opportunity. I kept working at it and you know developed into a complete tight end.”

Shaheen with the 13th pick in the second round  (No. 45 overall) in the 2017 NFL Draft Friday evening in PhiladelphiaLast season Shaheen, a 6-6, 278-pounder, led all Division II tight ends in receptions (57) and yards (867) and led all college football tight ends with 16 touchdown receptions in 11 games, an Ashland single-season record.

In 2014, Shaheen caught two passes for 85 yards as the team’s No. 3 tight end. He then took over the starting job in 2015, catching 70 passes — a Division II record for tight ends — for 803 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Shaheen, a native of Galena, Ohio, was one of 42 candidates for the Harlon Hill Trophy, recognizing the best Division II college football player. He also earned first-team All-Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference honors and was named to CoSIDA’s Academic All-District team. READ MORE

Bears gamble big with trade/choice of Trubisky

Bears first-round pick, QB Mitchell Trubisky, North Carolina

Bears first-round pick, QB Mitchell Trubisky, North Carolina

Not content to “settle” for the team’s highest first-round pick in 45 years, Chicago Bears General Manager Ryan Pace struck an aggressive maneuver Thursday night, dealing much of this year’s draft resources and a 2018 choice to swap first-round choices with San Francisco to acquire talented, but raw North Carolina QB Mitchell Trubisky.

While Pace’s bold move turned the 2017 NFL Draft upside down (Kansas City and Houston also traded up to select their QB’s of the future), the Trubisky selection poses both short and long-term questions. Will John Fox and the Bears current coaching staff be on hand to watch Trubisky when he becomes the starter? Is the current staff equipped to properly develop him?  Could the Bears have remained at number three and brokered a deal that would have netted them more draft choices and still given them an opportunity to select a signal caller of the future?

While there are no quick answers to any of those questions, credit has to be given to Pace for trying to solve a decades long problem. It remains to be seen whether the ransom he paid the 49′ers can be recouped by dealing the Bears second-round pick (#36 overall, fourth selection in the second-round) for additional choices. If so, Pace could continue the additional retooling the Bears current roster requires.

As for Trubisky, most observers had him tabbed as the best overall QB in this year’s underwhelming class, though that might be faint praise. Trubisky does possess some natural traits but has ample room for growth as noted by The Slant…NFL Draft Guide’s scouting capsule.

Good size. Limited experience as he started just one full season. Quick release and set-up.   Good, not great arm. Stocky build, but can maneuver the pocket and escape for yardage.  Better athlete than he appears. Can be prone to underthrowing deep ball, forcing receivers to reach back and make a play.  Accurate short-to-medium passer with zip. Excels in play-action…good ball fakes. Generally good vision and mechanics, but can throw off his back foot when trying to get extra mustard on deep throws. Roughed up in Sun Bowl by Solomon Thomas and an aggressive Stanford defense.  Struggled when protection broke down and made several poor decisions with the ball. Has good upside but needs development. Will probably be forced to play before he’s ready, but better served by slow implementation with a small package of plays. Early entry.  Passed for 30 TD’s, just 6 Int.’s in 2016 with a 68% completion percentage. Top ten selection.  Games viewed: Virginia Tech, North Carolina State, Stanford (Sun Bowl).

 

Pace remained bullish on the move and pick, despite overwhelming reaction on the contrary. READ MORE