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Bears 2024 NFL Draft takeaways: The sky is the limit for Roma Udunze and Caleb Williams

Bears 2024 NFL Draft takeaways: The sky is the limit for Roma Udunze and Caleb Williams

LAKE FOREST, Ill. — Wide receiver Roma Udunze had just sat down to talk to reporters on a video call from the NFL Draft in Detroit on Thursday night when he was interrupted. The new quarterback had to talk to him first.

Caleb Williams, the first draft pick, embraced Odunze and they stepped away from their computer screens to celebrate briefly.

“It's very exciting to be his teammate and to be on this journey together, which is special,” Udunze said a day later. “(It's) something special and something that, hopefully, when we finish our careers, we can look back on the first moment we realized we were teammates.”

It felt like it was meant to be. Williams and Udunze were on the same flight from California to Detroit for the draft — and then shared a Bears charter plane to Chicago. At Halas Hall, the duo stood side by side in the Bears' media room and held up their No. 18 and 15 jerseys for all to see. It marked the beginning of a new era for the Bears.

And everyone — from the Bears' front office to the players in the locker room to their fans around the world — should be excited about it.

“I'm really happy – not only to be here with my family but also to be able to host Roma Udonzi here in ninth place, it's pretty sick, isn't it?” Williams said. “Really happy, really excited, ready to go.”

Stills

circular

He chooses

name

POS.

school

1

1

Caleb Williams

QB

University of Southern California

1

9

Roma Udonze

WR

Washington

3

75

Kiran Amegadji

after that

Yale

4

122

Tori Taylor

s

yeah

5

144

Austin Booker

D

Kansas

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Choose the best value

It's Udunze. The Bears didn't need a receiver with DJ Moore and Keenan Allen already on the roster. But they stuck to their board and played the long game after selecting Williams with the first pick.

Some scouts and teams ranked Odunze as the best receiver in the draft ahead of Marvin Harrison Jr. And Malik Nabers. General manager Ryan Bulls viewed Odunze so highly that a trade up was briefly considered in the draft room. The team allowed players to be optioned and then were rewarded when the Atlanta Falcons surprisingly selected quarterback Michael Penix Jr. with the eighth overall pick.

The Poles discovered Odunze in person, with a 24-21 win over rival Washington State in the Apple Cup on November 25. He had seven catches for 120 yards, two touchdowns and a 23-yard run on fourth-and-1 in the fourth quarter in that game.

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“They put the ball in his hands and got the job done,” Bowles said.

But it was the person, not the player, that made Odunze truly deserving of a top-10 (if not higher) selection for the Bears.

“For this reason, we really rely on our area scouts who spend a lot of time in the schools,” Poles said. “They did a great job of getting the background. And then obviously you read the stories and put it all together and you realize how special this guy is.

“I love the work ethic,” coach Matt Eberflus said.

deepen

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Chicago Bears draft Roma Udonze: How he fits in, choosing a grade and scouting information

Odunze wanted to join the Bears, too.

“I definitely had the mindset of making myself happy wherever I went, but in the back of my mind, you know the Bears visit went very well and I came to this facility and the attitude and effort they put into my life,” Udunze said. The visit and conversations we had were incredible.

These feelings only intensified when he got to know Williams.

“It really reminds me of all the foundational pieces I had in college and the pieces that were coming together in the amazing seasons we had,” Udunze said. “He really has that same feel, where he has a lot of weapons on offense. Having a guy like Caleb at the helm, it all allows us to do a lot of different things. So I'm very excited about the offensive mentality that we're going to have on offense, and the explosiveness that we can have.” Bring it to any football field and I think it will be special.

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The most surprising choice

Gambler Tori Taylor. He was by far the best at his position this draft class. He set an NCAA record with 4,479 yards on 93 punts, breaking the total yardage mark set in 1938. Taylor was named a first-team All-American in three seasons (2020, 2022, 2023). Last year, he took unanimous honors and won the Ray Jay Award as the best punter in the country.

Dealing with the punter also made sense after Trenton Gill, a seventh-round pick in 2022, struggled last season. But Taylor was selected in the fourth round.

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This is surprising. Then again, the 122nd pick was the only pick the Bears had when Day 3 opened.

“The funny thing is a lot of people were messaging me saying, 'I hope the Bears use their fourth-round pick on you, you'd be great,'” said Taylor, who is from Australia. “But at the end of the day, it's the NFL and you never really know what's going on. I just talked to (special teams coordinator Richard Hightower) in the conference and I felt like we really had success. He was coaching Mitch Wischnowski on the 49ers and I really feel like I'm a player from Similar type.

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The biggest question mark

Have the Bears waited too long to address their concerns defensively? On the third day of the draft, they went back to the fifth round to select Austin Booker at 144th overall, a pick they took back from the Buffalo Bills for a 2025 fourth-round pick. The Bears had previously traded that pick to the Bills for center Ryan Bates.

Booker was the No. 78 player on Dane Brugler's Top 300 list, but he was always considered a work in progress. Some projection was required from the Bears. Eberflus said the team liked his upside.

Booker, just 21 years old, played 505 snaps in college. He transferred from Minnesota to Kansas in 2023 and led the Jayhawks in sacks, tackles for loss and forced fumbles despite being a subpar fullback. But at 6-foot-4, 253 pounds with 33 7/8-inch arms, Booker fits the physical metrics the Bears look for in 4-3 defensive ends.

“Then you turn on the tape and see everything you need to see,” said John City, a Southwest Region scout. “The way this kid wins, the way he can win quickly outside, the way he can get down low on the counter and then deceptively one of his best attributes is this kid's ability to win with power.”

The Bears have done a lot of work on Booker. Syty said the Bears met him at the NFL Scouting Combine and during the Pac-12 pro day. They also hosted him on a visit to Halas Hall.

“I thought he went down to Mobile in the Senior Bowl and had one of his best weeks there as a rusher, going up against some really talented prospects who went really early on the other side of the ball,” Syty said.

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One of those players was offensive tackle Jordan Morgan, who was drafted in the first round by the Green Bay Packers at 25th overall.

“We definitely had our eyes on him there,” Eberflus said. “He has a slippery way about him. Some edge rushers have that ability to beat the outside tackle. There were a couple of other guys who were like that in the draft this year, but he's definitely one of those guys.”

remaining needs

The lack of depth at defensive tackle, especially in three-way approaches, deserves more attention than depth at safety or the future of the interior of the offensive line with Tevin Jenkins in a contract year.

The Bears drafted Gervon Dexter in the second round last year to be their three-way shortstop in Eberflus' scheme. He played better as his rookie season progressed. He finished with 2 1/2 sacks and 12 quarterback hits. But defensive tackle Justin Jones remained entrenched as a starter throughout last season and left this offseason in free agency.

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Post-Draft Expectations

Leave it to Williams to get the best approach — and answer — to the higher expectations the Bears have now that he's selected.

“What's the reason for the ducks? They're here,” Williams said. “There's no reason for the ducks. I'm here. Rome is here. Keenan Allen, our top five defenseman last year, special teams, all new roles – whatever. we are here. I'm excited. I know everyone is excited.

“Bears fans are passionate about what I've heard and seen, and there's no reason to back down. Go at it head first and get it.”

Eberflus kept it simple for Williams, too.

“Just for work,” he said. “Go to work, and he'll do it.”

Williams has embraced everything that comes with being the Bears' quarterback. All the attention is not a problem for him.

“Just doing my job,” he said. “Don't focus on all that. I'll always be scrutinized. I do things like paint my nails. I'll always be scrutinized for that. I wear funky clothes, things like that. Just doing my job on the football field and winning games. I think if I win a bunch of games Here, you will make a lot of people – the majority – happy.

(Photo by Roma Udonzi: Michael Reeves/Getty Images)