Chicago Bears 2024 NFL Draft steal not enough people are talking about

The Chicago Bears got a massive steal in the 5th round of the 2024 NFL Draft
Chicago Bears
Chicago Bears / Kevin Sabitus/GettyImages

The Chicago Bears had the 1st and 9th overall picks in the 2024 NFL Draft. Is it possible that they got one of the biggest steals of the draft as well?

The Bears didn't have a ton of capital to work with outside of their top 10 picks to begin with, but general manager Ryan Pace made good use of his selections after taking Caleb Williams #1 overall and wide receiver Rome Odunze at #9 overall. In the third round, the Bears landed Yale offensive tackle Kiran Amegadjie, one of the most talented players in a loaded class of offensive linemen.

But it was on Day 3 that Chicago perhaps landed one of the biggest steals of the whole 2024 NFL Draft class. They traded up into the 144th overall slot, a pick slot that previously belonged to them anyway (Ryan Bates trade with Buffalo) and added Kansas pass rush prospect Austin Booker.

Booker, by pretty much every account, was supposed to go way higher than 144th overall. Even after just one breakout season off the edge for the Jayhawks as a sub-package player, Booker was graded as a solid 3rd-round pick by Dane Brugler of The Athletic. He was graded as a third-round player and even compared to Maxx Crosby by analyst Lance Zierlein. He was ranked the 108th overall player by NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah.

Pro Football Focus graded him as the best pass rusher in the Big 12 last season.

So what gives? Why was this guy still on the board at pick #144 overall? At this point, it doesn't matter, because the Chicago Bears moved up to get their guy and they paid the price. They traded Buffalo a 2025 4th-round selection to move up and get Booker, a clear indicator of just how good they believe he can be.

Booker's college career started off at Minnesota, where he was a redshirt player in 2021 before playing in just six games in 2022. He transferred to Kansas and exploded with 56 total tackles, 12 tackles for loss, 8.0 sacks, and two forced fumbles. He has outstanding length off the edge but perhaps didn't test as well as teams would have liked in order to invest a top 100 pick in him.

But Booker should get a real shot to compete for snaps right away opposite of Montez Sweat, whose inclusion in Matt Eberflus' defense took the Bears to another level in the second half of the 2023 season.

Chicago may benefit greatly from the fact that this player was on the field for just over 500 snaps in his collegiate career. He could be one of the top steals of this entire draft class.