Advertisement

Bears' trade-up for Austin Booker needed move in defining 2024 NFL Draft

Bears' trade-up for Austin Booker needed move in defining 2024 NFL Draft originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Bears could have ended their historic 2024 NFL Draft early Saturday after they used their only Day 3 pick—a fourth-rounder at No. 122 overall—to select Iowa punter Tory Taylor.

The Bears would have exited the draft with a new franchise quarterback in Caleb Williams, an elite wide receiver in Rome Odunze, a raw offensive tackle with a high ceiling in Kiran Amegadjie, and a big-legged punter in Taylor.

But the Bears still had a big hole at defensive end, and general manager Ryan Poles made sure he did what was necessary to fill that need.

Poles traded the Bears' 2025 fourth-round pick to the Buffalo Bills for a fifth-round pick (No. 144 overall) to select Kansas edge rusher Austin Booker. The Bills initially received the No. 144 overall pick from the Bears in a trade for offensive lineman Ryan Bates in March.

In Booker, the Bears get a raw 21-year-old edge rusher with the ability to win in a variety of ways. Last season, Booker notched 38 pressures and nine sacks for the Jayhawks, per Pro Football Focus, while recording a pass-rush win rate of 14.8 percent.

"The way this kid wins, the way he’s able to win with speed outside, the way he’s able to come underneath with the counter and then deceptively one of his best attributes is this kid’s ability to win with power," Bears scout John Syty said of Booker after the selection. "So when you can win all three ways regardless of how this kid tests, you turn on the tape and you see everything you need to see on film.”

On Friday, Poles said he wouldn't hesitate to move back into the draft if there was a player the Bears had strong conviction in.

That player was Booker.

"The main is going to be the upside," Syty said about why the Bears went to get Booker. "This kid fits a lot of the metrics of what you look for in pass rushers: the length, the athleticism, the ability to win multiple ways as a rusher."

The Bears now have three defensive ends in Montez Sweat, DeMarcus Walker, and Booker. They also have Dominique Robinson, Byron Cowart, and Jacob Martin on the roster, but all three will enter training camp on or outside the roster bubble.

Adding another reliable edge rusher should be a priority before camp. However, the decision to trade back into the fifth round to secure Booker, an edge rusher who scouts compared to Maxx Crosby as a prospect, was a crucial roster-building move for a team with big goals in 2024.

It might take time for Booker to reach his potential, but he should contribute as a rotational edge rusher this fall as the Bears work to mold him into the game-changing pass rusher they believe he will become.

Click here to follow the Under Center Podcast.