As we know, the 49ers and the Chiefs are playing each other in the Super Bowl. Both teams’ offensive attacks are on different ends of the spectrum. One is tough, gritty, and run heavy and the other is a straight-up aerial assault. The only thing these offenses have in common is elite tight end play. It’s no secret that the Bears’ least productive position group in 2019 was the tight ends. The Bears should address the position in both free agency and the draft. The Senior Bowl is around the corner, and the Bears have interviewed three tight end prospects. This article will highlight the prospects the Bears have shown interest in thus far.
Brycen Hopkins – Purdue (TE) – 6’5″ 245 Lbs
61 Receptions – 830 Yards – 13.6 Yards Per Catch – 7 Touchdowns
Hopkins is the most NFL ready TE prospect the Bears are looking at. So far, mock drafts have him falling between picks 40-55, but he’s putting on an impressive showing for the scouts at the Senior Bowl. His stock is rising and even though the Bears have two picks in the second round (43 and 50), it’s starting to look like he won’t fall to them.
The first thing that sticks out on tape is his willingness to catch balls in traffic. He’s a big target that goes up and plucks the ball at its high point. Hopkins is versatile, and Purdue used him all over the field. It’s funny because everything about him screams ‘U’ tight end, but his best plays come from the ‘Y’ position. He is a willing blocker, but at times his technique causes him to get beat or whiff on his assignment. Hopkins is a tough player who isn’t afraid of contact. He has a knack for finding soft spots in a zone and is always looking to help his quarterback during scramble drills. Hopkins is also dangerous with the ball in his hands. He can hit another gear and make players miss in open space. He will be a starter at some point in the NFL, but there’s no doubt he can be a contributor his rookie year.
Jared Pinkney – Vanderbilt (TE) – 6’4″ 254 Lbs
50 Receptions – 774 Yards – 15.5 Yards Per Catch – 7 Touchdowns
Before you look at the tape, you notice a steep dropoff in production from 2018 to 2019. In 2019, Pinkney’s numbers fell in every major category (20 receptions, 233 yards, 11.6 YPC, 2 TDs). Even when you factor in the injuries and the quarterback change, after Kyle Shurmur was drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs, it is still deterring.
Jared Pinkney is projected to be a true ‘inline’ tight end. He is physical and does a good job of moving defenders off the line of scrimmage. He is also one of the best pass protecting tight ends in this draft. Like Hopkins, he lines up all over the field, but he is not the same type of receiving threat. Pinkney will be more of a possession receiver. His stature helps him box out defenders and make contested catches, but by no means is he YAC machine. There’s no doubt he would be an upgrade over Adam Shaheen, but it’s unlikely the Bears will be able to draft him.
He is projected to be a late third-round to an early fourth-round draft pick. The Bears don’t have a third-round pick and it’s possible their compensatory pick for Adrian Amos will come at the end of the fourth round. Taking him with one of the two second-round selections will be reaching way too high, and he shouldn’t fall to the end of the fourth round. Trading down could be an option, but it really depends on how the draft shakes out. At least the Bears are doing their due diligence.
Adam Trautman – Dayton (TE) – 6’6″ 253
70 Receptions – 916 Yards – 13.1 Yards Per Catch – 14 Touchdowns
Trautman’s projections are all over the place. He produced fairly well as an FCS player, and he has the ideal size/speed combination to be a top-tier tight end. He is described as a player that is still learning the nuances of the position. He has often made plays because he was the biggest and most athletic player on the field. Is this starting to sound familiar? He is a better prospect than Shaheen was, and Division II is far less competitive than FCS football. The scouts wanted to see him compete at the Senior Bowl, and so far he has risen to the occasion. His draft stock is climbing, but the Bears shouldn’t make a Shaheen-like reach on a raw prospect. Sometimes you have to be aggressive, but the wounds haven’t even scarred yet. Please, Mr. Pace, sit on your hands until the fifth round with this one. He might not be there, but that’s okay.
The Bears are in a predicament when it comes to the tight end room. They already have a ton of money dedicated to the position, and the draft will be the most economical way to upgrade the position. The Bears will continue to interview and evaluate tight end prospects in hopes of finding a day one starter in the draft.