Adam Shaheen is attempting to be this year’s tight end from a D-II school to make a name for himself on Day 2 of the draft. Where will he land?
Over the course of the weeks leading up to the 2017 NFL Draft, we will take a look at the top NFL prospects at each position. This week we explore the tight end position. Today we look at Adam Shaheen from the Ashland University.
You’ve probably never heard of Adam Shaheen (I hadn’t before researching for this profile). He played at the perennial powerhouse and household name Ashland, a D-II school where he became a starter in 2015 and caught 70 passes for 803 yards and 10 touchdowns.
This past year, he tacked on another 57 catches, 867 yards, and 16 touchdowns, awarding him a second straight Division II All-American selection. His stats are impressive, but it remains to be seen whether they will translate to the highest level.
Shaheen is a big dude, even for tight ends. A typical NFL tight end is around 6‘3”, 250 lbs. Shaheen measures out at 6‘6”, 278 lbs, with a 33 1/2” arm length. He put up 24 reps at the combine, best in his position group, and despite his big frame, Shaheen still managed to run an impressive 4.79 forty time. His physical abilities and the quality of his competition makes it fair to question the reason for his success, but looking at the tape, you can see that he is not just a big body.
Ashland used Shaheen in a variety of ways. The had him on the line in a traditional tight end spot, they had him in the backfield as more of a fullback, they but him in the slot, and they at times split him out wide. The ways that Shaheen was used demonstrate that he has the full package. When looking at the tape, you can see that Shaheen grades well as a blocker and a pass catcher.
In the blocking game, Shaheen is tenacious. He can struggle to maintain a block at times, but he is not afraid of contact and will attack his defender. He uses his size well and has shown and the ability to overpower the opposition. Shaheen understands blocking schemes and knows how to read a defense, allowing his back to spring the second level.
In the passing game, Shaheen demonstrates great hands. He does an excellent job of tracking balls in the air and making solid catches. You can trust him to come down with all the balls he should and even some he shouldn’t. He is also fairly nimble given his size and has a good stiff arm, allowing him to break free of first contact. When he gets up to speed, Shaheen can pull away from defenders and turn a short gain into a big play.
One of the thing’s you’ll notice about Shaheen is that he plays stiff and upright. When both running or blocking, there isn’t enough bend in his knees. While running, this means it harms his ability to accelerate, and while blocking, it means that he struggles with pad level and leverage.
At the level he played, he could get away with this because the competition was slower and weaker. He would probably struggle with this making the jump to D-I, and instead he is going all the way to the NFL. At first it will be a hindrance, but he has the strength that, with the right technique, can help him grow into a solid blocker.
Shaheen also needs to improve his ability to create separation. This is a two-part issue that calls on him to improve his ability to get through a jam and the sharpness of his routes. On the jamming front, he doesn’t use his hands well and can get held up by stronger guys or guys with better technique. On the route running front, he is not crisp in his routes. He can at times telegraph his movements and will struggle to break away from good coverage guys. He needs to improve the fluidity of his movement in order to create much needed separation in the NFL.
You can just picture the first time you’ll hear of Shaheen. It’ll be a Week 7 Monday Night Football game that you’re watching because you have either an addiction to football or gambling. You are sitting on the edge of the money in your FanDuel and DraftKings pools and praying that you don’t lose your $100.
In the first quarter, this random guy named Adam Shaheen out of Ashland will have scored on a one-yard reception because the backer bit on a goal line play action. You’ll think nothing of it. Then he’ll proceed to score in the third quarter after a safety fails to make the tackle on what should be a simple 12-yard button hook that Shaheen turns into a 43-yard touchdown.
You’ll check your daily fantasy entry and notice that there’s a heard of people moving towards you because Gronk is on bye, Shaheen scored two touchdowns over the last two weeks, and Matthew Berry tweeted out that he was a great play for the week. You’ll think to yourself no way this random guy is going to cost me my beer money this week.
Then in the fourth quarter he’ll make a contested grab over a DB on an end zone fade, and that will be all she wrote. Jon Gruden will say “Woah, man, what an athlete,” and for the fifth time that night they’ll mention that Shaheen played college, D-II basketball. He’ll be the nights Gruden grinder and you’ll end up starting him three weeks from then where he will proceed to put up one reception for nine yards.
All that is to say is that Shaheen will have success at the NFL level. He’s got the talent and the size to make him an attractive option to many teams. In a pass-happy league, Shaheen will serve as a solid weapon for some team as their number two tight end, at least to start of his career, and has the ability to one day make a name for himself as some middle of the road quarterback’s number one option.
Although he has room to improve, Shaheen has the kind of overall skill set that would make him attractive to all teams. As such, there are two ways to think about best fit. One are teams that rely heavily on tight ends as part of their offense and their current tight end group is not very good. The other are teams that don’t rely of tight ends much, likely because they have a poor tight end group.
The team best suiting the first category is surprisingly the Carolina Panthers. The Panthers were fifth in 2016 in receiving yards coming from tight ends, with 30% of their 1200 yards coming from that position. Greg Olsen was responsible for the lion’s share of this with nearly 1100 yards. Although Olsen is considered one of the league’s best tight ends, he had a poor year in 2015. He finished ranked 31st out of 46 qualified tight ends in catch rate with 62% and only finished 17th in DVOA.
Olsen is a deceiving player, he puts up big numbers largely due to the role he plays on in offense that is limited from a talent perspective. His true value comes in pass and run blocking. Shaheen could help the Panthers with his sure hands and could serve as the heir apparent for the 32-year-old Olsen.
The second category for Shaheen’s best fit is best represented by the Los Angeles Rams. The Rams only had 18% of their receiving yards, 20th best in the league, and 584 yards total, 29th in the league, coming from tight ends. In addition their main tight end target, Lance Kendrick, finished with a 57% catch rate and a 41st ranked DVOA. The Rams need an upgrade here and Shaheen would provide Goff the ability to grow with another young weapon and form what could end up becoming a deadly rapport.
Any team would be happy to end up with is services next year, but don’t be surprised if Shaheen ends up in some shade of blue.
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