It has been a position of interest for the Bears ever since they established the early standard for tight end with Mike Ditka a half-century ago. But it has too often been a position of concern ever since, a situation that could be remedied with a draft move based on potentially the right mix of need and grade.
Consensus has tight end as one of the deepest positions in the upcoming draft, with Senior Bowl attendees O.J. Howard from Alabama and Gerald Everett from South Alabama rated as two of the top three prospects at a position where the Bears have had moments — and issues — with Martellus Bennett (attitude) and Zach Miller (injuries) over the past several seasons. The Bears got 20 catches from waiver-pickup Daniel Brown last season but little impact from free-agent-acquisition Logan Paulsen. With unsettled situations at wide receiver, a productive draft pick at tight end becomes a priority amid the higher profiled situations at quarterback and defensive back.
"I thought [Howard] was the best player on the field if you look at either of the practices," NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah said via video on ChicagoBears.com. "He was outstanding, several one-handed catches. Everything he does is just so smooth and easy."
[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]
The Bears had designs on Arkansas' Hunter Henry in the 2016 draft, but the San Diego Chargers snatched the Razorbacks standout with the fourth pick of the second round. The Bears were sitting at No. 10 in the round and, having already traded up in round one for Leonard Floyd, were not in a position to jump up again for Henry, particularly with a good grade on Cody Whitehair, whom they were able to land after two trade-downs.
Henry put up 36 catches and 8 touchdowns as a rookie, an indication that the Bears had correctly identified a talent.