The Bears 2024 NFL Draft started and ended early as all five of their selections ranged from the 1st pick to the 144th, both of which were acquired via trades.

The consensus among Chicago and NFL fans is that the Bears nailed their draft, landing five quality players who are poised to make an immediate impact on the organization.

After months of waiting, we finally know who the newest Bears are.

Now, let’s get to know these men a little better.

Round 1, Pick 1: Caleb Williams (Quarterback, USC)

In the ever-evolving era of social media, there is potential that Caleb Williams is the most well-known college football player of all time. The spotlight has been on Williams since high school, and this only increased during his time in college. Specifically, at USC, it felt like every step he took on or off the field was scrutinized or applauded, depending on how you viewed Williams. The constant buzz did not deter him as he stayed focused on becoming a better football player and person, leading to his selection at first overall.

Caleb, 22 years old, was born and raised in Washington, DC. Williams attended Gonzaga College High School, playing in one of the most competitive conferences in the country, the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference. He became the varsity starting quarterback during freshman year and immediately led the team to a state championship, although ultimately falling short. Over three seasons, Williams led Gonzaga to a 25-10 record, including a coveted State Championship in his sophomore year. During this time, Williams had multiple plays go viral gaining millions views, most notably his game winning hail mary to win the state championship as a sophomore. During this historic sophomore season, Williams accounted for over 2,900 yards and 36 touchdowns, leading to his recognition as Gatorade State High School Player of the Year. As a junior, Williams continued to shine with over 2,500 yards and 37 touchdowns. The two-time Washington Post All-Metropolitan 1st Team quarterback, however, did fall short in his final high school game during the State Semifinals. (Note: Williams did not have a senior season in 2020 due to the Covid pandemic).

Due to his tremendous high school career, Williams would become one of the most highly touted recruits in his class, finishing as a consensus 5-star and #2 overall quarterback ranking. Williams was also invited to the most prestigious high school quarterback competition in the country, Elite 11, where he wound up winning MVP. He had many reputable college offers, most notably from Alabama, Clemson, LSU, Ohio State, and his home team, Maryland. Williams would end up committing in July 2020 to the “quarterback whisperer,” Lincoln Riley and Oklahoma University.

Williams entered Oklahoma in 2021 as the backup to the preseason Heisman favorite, Spencer Rattler. Rattler did not perform up to expectations, as he was benched during the team’s sixth game in a rivalry versus Texas. Enter Caleb Williams. At the time when Williams was thrust in to lead the offense, Oklahoma was down 35-17 with just over six minutes left in the second quarter. In his first college action, Williams accounted for exactly 300 yards and 3 touchdowns in possibly the most exciting game of the 2021 College Football season. Oklahoma and Williams quickly came back and won the Red River Showdown 55-48. It was from this point on, the world knew Caleb Williams could be the next football great. He would maintain his job as the starting quarterback for the remainder of the season. In seven games, Williams exhibited his talent with over 2,300 yards and 27 touchdowns compared to just four interceptions while leading the team to a 5-2 record. Unfortunately for Oklahoma fans, this was the last they would see of Williams in a Sooners uniform.

One day after falling short to Oklahoma State in the Bedlam series, head coach Lincoln Riley accepted a new job at USC in a move that shook the college football world. As many expected, Caleb Williams entered his name into the transfer portal and decided to follow Riley to USC for his sophomore season. What occurred over the next several months is what set up Williams to be the #1 pick in a draft that, at the time, was multiple years away. Williams’ 2022 campaign was the best single season from a quarterback in USC’s storied history. While leading USC to an 11-3 record, Williams set the single-season school record for total yards (4,919) and total touchdowns (52). These numbers were sensational enough to take home plenty of hardware, most notably the Heisman Trophy. Other awards and honors Williams earned that season include the Maxwell and Walter Camp Awards, AP College Football Player of the Year, Unanimous All-American, and First Team All-Pac-12. Concluding this historic season, many fans and experts argued whether Williams would have been the first overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, though ineligible due to NFL requirements.

Williams’ junior and final season may not have lived up to the expectations from the prior year. USC finished the season just 7-5, mostly due to major defensive lapses. However, in general, Williams had a good year with over 3,400 total yards and 41 touchdowns, which was enough for another top-five season in USC quarterback history. Over his three seasons of college football, Williams racked up more than a combined 10,500 yards in addition to 120 total touchdowns while never throwing more than five interceptions in a year. 

Caleb Williams’ story is well documented and has been in the spotlight since a young age. All of the love, hate, scrutiny, and passion Williams endured while growing from a teenager into a man has molded him into the person, leader, #1 overall draft pick, and generational quarterback he is today.

Round 1, Pick 9: Rome Odunze (Receiver, Washington)

Odunze, the soon-to-be 22-year-old, was raised in Las Vegas. In Vegas, Odunze attended one of the most notable high school programs in the country, Bishop Gorman. Although Odunze did see some varsity action as a sophomore, it was not until his junior year he truly broke out. In 14 games as a junior, Odunze recorded over 1,300 receiving yards and 15 receiving touchdowns on 91 receptions. The 1,347 receiving yards he tallied were the most in the state that year. It was during this season that recruiting experts started coming to the consensus he was one of the best football players in Nevada as a high four-star recruit. Odunze held many high-quality college offers, including from Alabama and Arizona State, following this junior campaign. However, he decided to commit to the University of Washington in August 2019, right before his senior season. As a senior, Odunze continued his success by posting similar stats, having over 1,300 receiving yards and 16 receiving touchdowns on 93 receptions. These on-the-field accomplishments were recognized when he was awarded the 2019 Gatorade State Player of the Year following his stellar senior year. Odunze finished his career as a Bishop Gorman legend with almost 3,700 yards and over 30 touchdowns. This success would eventually carry over to Washington.

Like his Bishop Gorman career, Odunze did not come onto the scene until his junior season. In 2020, Odunze’s freshman year, Washington only played four games due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He did appear in each game, making a minimal impact with only 6 catches for 72 yards. As a sophomore, Odunze started 7 games, racking up 41 catches for 415 yards. After his sophomore season, Washington decided to undergo coaching changes as head coach Jimmy Lake was let go, and the program decided to bring in Fresno State coach Kalen DeBoer. Odunze decided to stay true and remained committed to Washington throughout this entire process. This turned out to be the correct decision as it paid off as a junior.

Coming along with new head coach DeBoer was junior quarterback Michael Penix Jr. The success that followed was not what many expected. In 2022, the new star duo of Penix and Odunze led Washington to an 11-2 season capped with an Alamo Bowl win versus Texas. With just 8 starts as a junior, Odunze led the Pac-12 in receiving yards (1,145) on 75 receptions with 7 touchdowns. Odunze’s 75 catches and 1,145 yards are both top 7 in Washington football history for a single season. These numbers earned Odunze First-Team All-Pac-12 honors and appeared set to continue his success as a senior.

Some may have thought 2022 was just a fluke or a case of first-year luck for Washington. They shut down those rumors immediately in 2023, thanks to another historic year from both Penix and Odunze. With their newfound air raid offense, Washington finished the season 14-1, falling short in the National Championship. The 14 wins are a program record. Perhaps the biggest benefactor of this historic offense is Rome Odunze. Starting 13 games, Odunze led the nation in receiving yards (1,640), led the Pac-12 in receptions (92), and tacked on 13 receiving touchdowns. These stats are good enough to be considered a top-four single-season performance from a Washington receiver. Odunze was named a consensus All-American and, again, earned First-Team All-Pac-12 honors. The most intriguing note on Odunze: He had suffered a broken rib and punctured lung during the team’s fifth game but completed the rest of the season with these injuries. Odunze’s mark will be left at Washington as he leaves holding the 2nd most receptions and receiving yards in school history. 

Rome Odunze’s grit, loyalty, and eagerness to work are already being well-respected by Chicago fans. He is a true leader who, when the time comes, will be poised to break out as a team captain and superstar. 

Round 3, Pick 75: Kiran Amegadjie (Tackle, Yale)

The big man from Hinsdale, Amegadjie, is 22 years old and grew up a Bears fan, as seen in these tweets. Amegadjie attended Hinsdale Central High School and was fairly underrecruited as a consensus 2-star and top 300 offensive tackle in the country. Yale and Central Michigan are the only notable programs that have offered Amegadjie in high school. Amegadjie committed to Yale the summer before his senior year. Amegadjie finished with 25 wins in three varsity seasons at Hinsdale Central.

Yale and Amegadjie did not have a 2020 season due to the Covid pandemic. Amegadjie saw action right away in his sophomore year in 2021, starting every game at right guard. As a sophomore, he was named Honorable Mention All-Ivy and earned the team award for Most Valuable Freshman (again, note he did not have an official freshman year due to Covid). In 2022, as a junior, Amegadjie made the official switch over to left tackle, and this appears to have been the right decision. As a tackle, Amegadjie was a First-Team All-Ivy selection as he helped Yale lead the conference in rushing and total offense. Unfortunately, Amegadjie’s senior campaign was cut short after four games due to season-ending quad surgery. Graciously, the Ivy League still recognized Amegadjie’s prowess, naming him a First-Team All-Ivy selection for the second year. Analyst Phil Steele also recognized Amegadjie, naming him the Ivy League’s Offensive Lineman of the Year.

Amegadjie’s on-the-field skills, the recognition he has received, and his passion for the Bears led to his selection in this position. Bears management may view Amegadjie as more of a long-term project, but there is no doubt he will be a fan favorite from day one.

Round 4, Pick 122: Tory Taylor (Punter, Iowa)

“Iowa’s Offense,” “One of One,” and “The Crocodile Punter” are all terms used to describe the Bears newest special teams weapon. Taylor, who will be 27 when the season begins, was born and raised in Melbourne, Australia. While playing Aussie Football in high school, Taylor found his talent for kicking and was discovered by ProKick Australia. “Prokick Australia is widely respected in the USA for developing punters and kickers, and US coaches are demanding more and more players from our program. Coaches don’t just ask for any Australian punter; they ask for Prokick Australian Punters…” It was through this program that the University of Iowa discovered Taylor and brought Taylor “across the pond” as a 22-year-old. This is where the legend begins.

Taylor would win the starting punting job as a freshman in 2020. In his first season, he was named Big Ten Punter of the Year in addition to being named First-Team All-Big Ten. In 2021, as a sophomore, Taylor had another solid year, landing almost 49% of his punts inside the opposing 20-yard line. Unfortunately, he did not bring home any hardware for his effort that season. He would be more than rewarded the following season. As a junior in 2022, it was not unusual to open social media on Saturdays and see the Iowa punter being the only player making any sort of offensive highlights for his team. In just week one, Taylor had 10 punts totaling 479 yards, and 7 were downed inside the 20-yard line. The very next week, in a rivalry game versus Iowa State, Taylor would punt another six times for 304 yards. Taylor would finish the season as the NCAA leader for punts (82) and punting yards (3,725). His work all season was recognized as Taylor was named a First-Team All-American, in addition to being voted First-Team All-Big Ten by the media. Prior to his senior year, Taylor had the option to enter the 2023 NFL Draft or return to Iowa for a final season. Ultimately, Taylor chose to stay in school and had another historic year. This past season, Taylor again led the NCAA in punts (93) and punt yards (4,479). The 4,479 punting yards are the most in a single season in NCAA FBS history. He also holds the NCAA FBS record for average punt yards during an entire career (46.3). Taylor won the Ray Guy Award (best punter in NCAA) and was named a Unanimous All-American for his record-setting year. In addition, he was named the Big Ten Punter of the Year for the second time and was voted First-Team All-Big Ten.

Taylor, the Aussie, was a fan favorite in Iowa and seems to already be a fan favorite in Chicago. Taylor seems to already be making new friends as he joked, “Caleb (Williams) texted me and said, ‘You’re not going to punt too much here,’” Iowa and Bears fans alike will be excited about the energy and talent that Taylor brings to the NFL.  

Round 5, Pick 144: Austin Booker (Edge, Kansas)

The Bears final selection of the draft, Booker, 21, was born and raised in Indiana and attended Center Grove High School. At Center Grove, Booker first appeared in varsity games as a sophomore; however, he did not truly break out until his junior season in 2019. That year, despite an 8-6 record, Booker helped lead Center Grove on a Cinderella run of sorts all the way to the State Championship before falling short in the final. During this season, Booker recorded 67 total tackles, 14 tackles for loss, and 8 sacks. It was during this time that Booker’s college recruitment started to pick up as he was a consensus high 3-star who held many Power Five offers, including the likes of Minnesota, Arizona, and Arizona State. In May of 2020, Booker officially committed to the University of Minnesota prior to his senior year as a top 10 player in the state of Indiana. Booker enjoyed his senior year as he helped lead Center Grove to a perfect 14-0 record, ultimately winning the State Championship. During this historic season, Booker recorded 36 total tackles, 11 tackles for loss, and 3.5 sacks. He was named to the Second-Team All-State for his great season.

Unfortunately for Booker, Minnesota did not work out for him. In 2021, he was redshirted and did not see any game action. He would return for his sophomore season, although he saw limited playing time. Booker appeared in six games and recorded two tackles. After these quiet two years at Minnesota, Booker entered his name into the transfer portal, maintaining 3-star status. In December 2022, Booker chose to continue his career at the University of Kansas rather than return home to play for Indiana. The decision to enter the transfer portal accelerated Booker’s career faster than anyone would have thought.

In 12 games at Kansas, Booker made his mark by tallying 56 total tackles, 12 tackles for loss, and 8 sacks (the most by a Kansas player since 2016). He also recorded two forced fumbles. Booker sat out of the team’s bowl game to prepare for the NFL Draft. He was later named Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year in addition to being voted First-Team All-Big 12. This lone season at Kansas was enough to secure himself status as a lock to be selected in the NFL Draft.

Depending on how training camp progresses, there is a real chance Booker will be relied upon at least somewhat as early as this season. An alternate edge rusher to Montez Sweat is a legitimate need that may have just been addressed in the fifth round. Booker will be given all the tools to succeed in Chicago, and fans should be excited to watch him grow as a player and human.

For the first time in a long time, Bears fans have a legitimate reason to be happy and should be proud of the direction this organization is taking.
We just received five more reasons to be excited.

PHOTO: Chicago Bears

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