Bears

Bears NFL Draft preview: Signing Dion Sims upgrades tight end but draft has quality options

Bears NFL Draft preview: Signing Dion Sims upgrades tight end but draft has quality options

CSNChicago.com Bears Insider John "Moon" Mullin goes position-by-position as the Bears approach the 2017 Draft, taking a look at what the Bears have, what they might need and what draft day could have in store. Fourth in a series.

Bears pre-draft situation

The tight end position underwent major upheaval early last offseason with the trade of Martellus Bennett to the New England Patriots. The Bears still had Zach Miller in place as the starter, for 10 games, before Miller went on IR with a broken foot. The Bears made an unsuccessful play for Josh Hill from New Orleans but the Saints matched the Bears' offer sheet. The position ultimately was fortified with Logan Paulsen signed away from Washington, Daniel Brown picked up after his release by Baltimore, and Ben Braunecker arriving as an undrafted free agent.

Brown was a solid addition, with 16 catches over the final six games; he was re-signed early last month. Braunecker contributing on special teams. Paulsen contributed more penalties (6) than receptions (3) and more yards lost to flags (50) than gained on his catches (15). Paulsen now plays with Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley for the San Francisco 49ers.

The biggest step at the position this offseason came in the form of signing former Miami Dolphins tight end Dion Sims to a three-year contract. Sims adds a physical presence (6-5, 262 pounds) to the position but also caught 26 passes, four for TD’s, and started 22 games over his four Miami tenure. "A guy who can block, a guy who has good-enough hands to be a threat in the passing game," said coach John Fox. 

Projected pre-draft starters

TE: Zach Miller

TE: Dion Sims

Reserves: Ben Braunecker, Daniel Brown, Zach Miller, Dion Sims, Daniel Brown, MyCole Pruitt, Justin Perillo
 
Bears draft priority: Moderate

The Bears had designs on Arkansas tight end Hunter Henry early in the 2016 second round but saw the San Diego Chargers snap him up four picks into Day 2 as the Bears waited eight picks later in the round. The Bears then traded down twice and came away with offensive lineman Cody Whitehair, another of their prime targets.

The position has some strength with the triumvirate of Brown, Miller and Sims in particular. The draft class has quality, and the Bears set up private meetings with Evan Engram from Mississippi and Alabama’s O.J. Howard.

But with other needs rated above tight end, and the position already having been addressed via free agency, a move before late on Day 2 (Round 4) would be a mild surprise.

Keep an eye on ...

Jake Butt, Michigan: Consistent, four-year contributor who tore ACL in Orange Bowl and needed surgery Jan. 10. May be worth a late-round flyer.

Evan Engram, Mississippi: Undersized for an in-line blocker (235 pounds) but held in high enough regard to be brought in for a Halas Hall visit. With Brown and Miller, Bears have pass catchers but Engram was first team All-SEC, ahead of Howard.

O.J. Howard, Alabama: The marquee name at the position in this draft, and with a distinct chance to be the first tight end taken in Round 1 since Eric Ebron by Detroit at No. 10 in 2014. "[Howard’s] got it all," said ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. via conference call. "He’s a matchup nightmare. He’s certainly one of the top five, six, seven players in this draft." 

David Njoku, Miami: 'Canes have history of turning out etop-shelf TE’s — Bubba Franks, Jimmy Graham, Greg Olsen, Jeremy Shockey, Kellen Winslow II. Njoku is a speed TE, who can be a matchup problem in right offense.

Chicago native Rob Ninkovich details his snowball fights with Bill Belichick

Chicago native Rob Ninkovich details his snowball fights with Bill Belichick

Bill Belichick apparently loves a good snowball fight? 

The surprisingly-human fact about the NFL's most robotic head coach comes courtesy of Rob Ninkovich, who played in New England for eight seasons, winning two Super Bowls. On the latest episode of NBC Sports' Sports Uncovered podcast, Ninkovich lays out the time he found himself taking cover from Bill's lobs:

So I’m walking out after the game, walking to my truck. All of a sudden, a snowball comes flying in, and I’m like, ‘Who the heck is throwing snowballs?’ and it was Bill throwing snowballs at guys. It was just kind of like a fun moment where you were like, ‘He’s not so bad ... he’s not so bad’    

(So this was clearly after a win, right?) 

Ninkovich, along with others like Doug Flutie, Rodney Harrison, and Charlie Weiss, helped peel back the layers and provide a look into Bill Belichick that most people don't get to see. You can listen to the entire conversation right here, or in the embedded player below: 

Under Center Podcast: Bears haven't talked extension with Allen Robinson

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USA TODAY

Under Center Podcast: Bears haven't talked extension with Allen Robinson

JJ Stankevitz, Laurence Holmes and Cam Ellis discuss the Bears not talking to Allen Robinson about an extension and what that could mean for him and the team. Later, the crew discusses other deals that were made around the league, the stacked free agent running back class that Tarik Cohen finds himself in, and Laurence tells the story of finding a peacock and a chicken in his backyard.

(1:55) - Will 2020 be A-Rob's last in Chicago?

(7:10) - With no preseason, which QB (Nick Foles or Mitch Trubisky) will win the starting job?

(13:00) - Will the NFL even have a season this year?

Click to download the MyTeams App for the latest Bears news and analysis.

(20:00) - The 2021 running back free agent class isn't good for Tarik Cohen

(30:00) - Laurence's encounter with a peacock and chicken

Listen here or below.

Under Center Podcast

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