Bears draft positional analysis: TE

Notre Dame's Kyle Rudolph suffered a severe hamstring injury that required surgery and missed the final seven games last season. Dennis Wierzbicki/US Presswire

Greg Olsen proved in 2010 that tight ends aren’t merely an afterthought in the system brought in by offensive coordinator Mike Martz.

It’s true that Olsen’s 41 catches for 404 yards represented the second-lowest output of his four-year career in those categories. But the tight end was able to move into second in the franchise’s annals for career receiving touchdowns (20) at the position, sparking discussion among the Bears’ brass about an expanded role for 2011.

Given the team’s plans for Olsen, Brandon Manumaleuna's role as a blocker, and the emergence of rising fourth-year player Kellen Davis, it’s safe to say the Bears won’t look to add a tight end in the NFL draft. But it doesn’t hurt to look at what’s out there.

So here are the top 20 prospects at tight end and when they’re projected to be taken:

The next 10: 11. Daniel Hardy, Idaho, 6-4, 249; 12. Schuylar Oordt, Northern Iowa, 6-6, 261; 13. Wesleye Saunders, South Carolina, 6-5, 267; 14. Zack Pianalto, North Carolina, 6-3, 256; 15. Mike McNiel, Nebraska, 6-4, 231; 16. Kyle Adams, Purdue, 6-5, 257; 17. Charlie Gantt, Michigan State, 6-4, 252; 18. Cameron Graham, Louisville, 6-3, 244; 19. Collin Franklin, Iowa State, 6-6, 256; 20. Stephen Skelton, Fordham, 6-5, 252.

Position grade: D-

Analysis: Comments made by Bears coach Lovie Smith about the current state of the tight end position at the NFL owners meetings last month indicate the team won’t look to add to the group through the draft.

Smith and general manager Jerry Angelo said the Bears would like to find more ways to involve the Olsen and Davis without disrupting ball distribution to other playmakers. Manumaleuna will likely return to his predominant role next season as a blocking tight end.

“Greg improved his game last year as a blocker, which he set out to do. I was pleased with what Kellen Davis was able to do,” Smith said. “You could make the case for Kellen getting more plays, being more involved also. You look at the numbers, and [the public] want[s] the tight end to catch 100 balls. We have too many options on the offensive side of the ball for our tight ends to have those kinds of numbers. But you can still be a big part of the offense, which Greg and Kellen are.”