While Adam Shaheen was one of the most impressive Bears on the field during last week’s veteran minicamp, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. It's unlikely the guy who was dubbed “Baby Gronk” earlier this year won’t immediately become an elite NFL tight end.

“Gronk is pretty polished so I’m not going to disrespect Gronk like that,” linebacker Jerrell Freeman said, laughing when a reporter tried to lead him to comparing Shaheen to Rob Gronkowski. “But he has a lot of upside.”

The “but” there comes from what Freeman and the rest of the Bears saw last week and during OTAs. Shaheen hardly looked like someone struggling to make the competitive jump from Division II to the NFL, with the 6-foot-6, 278 pound Ashland alum making a handful of impressive plays during the course of the shorts-and-helmets workouts. 

“You see him out here catching fade balls and wreaking havoc there on the inside,” Freeman said. “He has a lot of intangibles. He has a lot of upside. I think he’s going to be a pretty good guy.”

An important note for Shaheen’s smooth transition is that he was part of a pro-style offense at Ashland, which gave him some familiarity with the concepts thrown at him by position coach Frank Smith and offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains. While plenty of other highly-drafted tight ends played at college football’s top level, plenty of those FBS/Power Five programs ran shotgun-spread offenses that frequently split the tight end wide and rarely required that player to stick his hand in the dirt next to a tackle. 

 

So there’s sort of a trade-off there. Shaheen didn’t face stiff competition — in his college tape, it’s borderline absurd how much better he was than the opposition — but he played in the “right” system. 

“He's picked things up very quick,” coach John Fox said. “He’s smart, he's big.”

Fox pointed to Shaheen needing to improve his blocking technique, which is a frequent area of growth for most rookie tight ends (even Dion Sims, regarded as one of the best blocking tight ends in the NFL today, wasn’t good in that area coming out of Michigan State). Whatever strides Shaheen makes as a blocker will have to come in training camp, when he can actually get physical with pads on against opposing defenders. 

“You don’t know until you put the pads on,” Shaheen said. “That’s what I’m excited for.”

As for the impact Shaheen can make this year, he should be able to be a red zone threat for the Mike Glennon-led Bears offense. We’ll have a better idea of what kind of a player he can be this season when the Bears report to Bourbonnais in July, but exiting the May and June offseason program, Shaheen is confident he can be a valuable player this fall. 

“When we put the pads on and see what I’m made of, I think so,” Shaheen said. 

“… The main thing is just learning and not thinking, just playing. That’s the biggest transition. I’m getting more comfortable by the more reps in practice I get.”