Advertisement

Bears draft grades round up: Report card for every pick

Bears draft grades round up: Report card for every pick originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

LAKE FOREST, Ill. – The Bears have wrapped up their 2024 NFL draft and over the course of the weekend, Bears GM Ryan Poles completely revamped the offense, added a raw pass rusher with tantalizing traits and selected the best punter in the class. He accomplished a lot of goals and added a ton of talent. Overall, the team is most likely thrilled with the outcome.

Grading players before they’ve ever taken a snap in the NFL is inherently unfair, but based on what we know right now, here’s our report card for each Bears pick this year.

NO. 1 OVERALL: CALEB WILLIAMS - QUARTERBACK - USC

Williams was the most-highly touted quarterback in this year’s draft– and a no doubt pick for the Bears for months– for good reason. He does just about everything well.

Williams earns the most praise for his elusiveness in the backfield and creativity as he keeps his eyes downfield to hunt for big plays. His ability to take a would-be sack and turn it into a monster gain has drawn comparisons to Patrick Mahomes. Of course, comps like that are incredibly unfair, and Williams isn’t just a schoolyard gunslinger. He’s shown the ability to make anticipatory throws in the regular rhythm of the offense. If nothing materializes, he can also run and leave his pursuers in the dust.

If there’s one knock on Williams, it’s that he fumbled the ball at a higher rate in 2023 than he did at any other point in his career. At both Oklahoma and USC, however, Williams threw very few interceptions.

Over his entire three years in college, Williams played in 37 games. He completed 66.9% of his passes for 10,082 yards, 93 touchdowns and just 14 interceptions. Williams also gained 966 yards on the ground with 27 rushing touchdowns. He won the Heisman and was named Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year and an All-American in 2022.

Off the field, Williams comes off as confident, just bordering on cocky. It’s clear that he doesn’t just think he can be great, he believes he will be great, and he is dedicated to putting in whatever’s required to make that happen. Throughout the entire pre-draft process he earned rave reviews for his character. Williams’ former college head coach Lincoln Riley commended his leadership in the locker room and said his desire to excel was contagious throughout the team.

Grade: A+

NO. 9 OVERALL: ROME ODUNZE - WIDE RECEIVER - WASHINGTON

The Bears haven’t had a consistently reliable deep threat in many years. Poles has tried to fill the void with draft picks like Velus Jones Jr. and Tyler Scott, but neither guy has performed convincingly in the role, in an admittedly small sample size. Either guy still has time to develop into the deep threat that the Bears imagined when they picked them, but Odunze becomes the best young vertical option on the team, immediately.

Even though Odunze was the third wide receiver off the board in the draft, few pass catchers can match his 2023 output. Check out his resumé from last season among WRs with 100 targets: 1,639 yards (1st), 74 first downs (1st), 21 contested catches (1st), 75% contested catch rate (1st), 15.5-yard average depth of target (2nd), 13 TDs (t-4th), 3.2% drop rate (6th).

Odunze also future-proofs the position for the Bears. New pass catcher Keenan Allen turns 32 next month and shouldn’t be considered a long term option at the position. He likely still has several seasons of productive football ahead, but obviously can’t be counted on to be a Bear for a decade to catch passes from Williams if all goes according to plan.

Grade: A+

NO. 75 OVERALL: KIRAN AMEGADJIE - OFFENSIVE TACKLE - YALE

Amegadjie will sure up the Bears’ offensive line depth at the edges this season. With his tantalizing length and athletic profile he could end up pushing Braxton Jones for a starting job, maybe not this year, but sometime down the road.

Here’s what draft expert Dane Brugler had to say about Amegadjie’s make up in his “Beast” draft primer:

“From a size and athletic standpoint, Amegadjie pops on film, because of his rare length, light feet and smooth body control to mirror pass rushers or create momentum as a run blocker. Though he does a great job repositioning his hands and feet, his inexperience is also apparent when it comes to timing and adjustment fundamentals.”

With Caleb Williams in the fold, everything is about making sure he’s set up to succeed not only this year, but for the duration of his career. Even though Amegadjie might not be a Week 1 starter, he can still help in that regard. Last season when Braxton Jones missed time with an injury, Larry Borom struggled as the next man up. Injuries on the offensive line are more of a “when” than an “if” in the NFL, so Amegadjie gives the team extra talent in the case the Bears need to go to the bench again.

Grade: A-

NO. 122 OVERALL: TORY TAYLOR - PUNTER - IOWA

Taylor is known for having a monster leg and left Iowa with several NCAA records. His 46.3 yard avg. over his career and his 4,479 total punt yards in 2023 are both the best marks of all-time. Taylor is also adept at pinning down opponents. He had 32 punts inside the 20-yard line last season and his punts led to 29 fair catches in 2023.

For his efforts, Taylor was named a unanimous All-American last year, and won the Ray Guy award which recognizes the top punter in the nation.

By adding Taylor, the Bears are almost assuredly going to move on from Trenton Gill. The team drafted Gill in the seventh round of the 2022 draft, and enjoyed a solid rookie season. But he took a step back last year. Gill’s 38.0 net yards/punt last season ranked dead last in the league. His 11.9% touchback rate was tied for third-worst. Gill’s 26.9% rate of punts inside the 20-yard line was fourth-worst.

Grade: B+

NO. 144 OVERALL: AUSTIN BOOKER - DEFENSIVE END - KANSAS

The Bears were widely expected to add a defensive end this draft, and there was speculation that could be the move at No. 122. But Poles opted for Tory Taylor– a punter with a monster leg, instead– in the end he got both of his guys.

Booker didn’t play much in college, with just 505 snaps to his name per PFF. But he produced a bunch in his limited playing time, with eight sacks and 12 TFL last season. The Bears were most impressed by his high pressure rate, however. Even when he didn’t get home for a sack, the Bears saw him affecting the quarterback.

The Bears also believe Booker has room to develop into an even better player. Specifically, they think he can add more weight to his frame and will improve with more experience.

Booker doesn’t figure to push for starting snaps opposite Montez Sweat, but he could play in a rotational role behind both Sweat and DeMarcus Walker. As a fifth-round pick, however, the Bears won’t need him to be a star right away. If he can develop into a solid pass rusher as he learns from Sweat and Walker, the pick will be a success.

Grade: B+

Click here to follow the Under Center Podcast.