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.

Mitch Trubisky jersey sales trending in right direction

Mitch Trubisky jersey sales trending in right direction

Positive press about the Chicago Bears' offseason is having a strong impact on the jersey sales for the team's highest-profile player, Mitch Trubisky.

According to Dick's Sporting Goods, Trubisky's No. 10 is the fifth-most popular jersey among offensive players over the last 30 days. He's No. 6 among all players, regardless of position.

The Bears' offseason has been full of superlatives since their aggressive approach to free agency. The signings of Allen Robinson, Trey Burton and Taylor Gabriel put the spotlight on Trubisky and the potentially surging passing game. The second-round selection of Anthony Miller and word of Kevin White's offseason emergence has turned positive momentum into higher-than-anticipated expectations for Trubisky this season.

For Chicago to have any chance at meeting those expectations, Trubisky, who's entering his first full season as a starter with a new head coach and offensive system, has to thrive. Fans must be confident that he will, considering the investment they're making in his jersey.

Trubisky ended his rookie season with four wins in 12 starts, throwing for 2,193 yards with seven touchdowns and seven interceptions. He completed 59.4 percent of his passes. He should have a much more productive season in 2018 with his new arsenal of skill players and an innovative coaching staff, led by coach Matt Nagy and offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich.

These four Bears will be featured on 'Meet the Rookies' series

These four Bears will be featured on 'Meet the Rookies' series

The Chicago Bears will kick off the fourth season of "Meet the Rookies" on June 25, a series that profiles four of the team's 2018 draft picks for a behind-the-scenes look at their journey to the NFL.

The four-episode series will air on ChicagoBears.com at 7:00 p.m from June 25 - 28 and will feature one rookie per night. 

Monday's episode will cover the Bears' first-round pick, Roquan Smith. Selected with the eighth-overall pick, Smith is expected to become an instant-impact player on defense. He's expected to make an impact off the field, too, as a high-character leader. Smith's linebacker-mate Joel Iyiegbuniwe is the focus of Tuesday's episode, with Anthony Miller (Wednesday) and James Daniels (Thursday) rounding out Season 4.

For a deeper dive into what's in store in "Meet the Rookies," check out this description.