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.

BearsTalk Podcast: Analyzing Mitch Trubisky's contract as rookies arrive for camp

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USA TODAY

BearsTalk Podcast: Analyzing Mitch Trubisky's contract as rookies arrive for camp

On Ep. 56 of our BearsTalk Podcast, Chris and JJ discuss Mitch Trubisky’s contract, question marks about the final 53, go over the Vikings off-season with Dawn Mitchell from Fox-9 Minneapolis, and go “Off the Grid” on  JJ’s recent engagement.

The wait is over: Bears sign Mitch Trubisky

The wait is over: Bears sign Mitch Trubisky

Mitch Trubisky said all along he wasn't worried about signing a contract and that he would have something completed before training camp. On Wednesday, the No. 2 overall pick officially stuck to his word. 

The Bears announced Wednesday -- the day Bears rookies report to Halas Hall -- that Trubisky signed a contract. Trubisky had to be signed to a contract to participate in training camp, which begins next week in Bourbonnais. 

"That's not really for me to worry about," Trubisky said in early June. "I'm going to be out here at practice everyday. My agent and the Bears organization is going to handle that. But I'm not really sure how that stuff works. I'm here to play football, I'm not worried about contracts."

A Trubisky holdout was always unlikely given both sides' desire to get the North Carolina alum into training camp from Day 1. With his contract signed, Trubisky will have an opportunity to develop in the month and a half separating the start of training camp from the Bears' season opener Sept. 10 against the Atlanta Falcons. 

Trubisky wasn't the last first-round quarterback to sign, too. Patrick Mahomes, the 10th overall pick, has yet to sign with Kansas City. And Mahomes is one of six first-round picks who have yet to sign along with Solomon Thomas (No. 3, San Francisco), Corey Davis (No. 5, Tennessee), Jamal Adams (No. 6, New York Jets), Gareon Conley (No. 24, Oakland) and Jabril Peppers (No. 25, Cleveland).