Chicago Bears undrafted gem could steal someone's job in 2024

The Chicago Bears rookie class in 2024 is deep...
Chicago Bears
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The Chicago Bears had two picks in the top nine of the 2024 NFL Draft, including the #1 overall pick. But the excitement didn't end after those two picks, or even after the NFL Draft itself. The undrafted free agency frenzy is always something the die-hard NFL fans pay close attention to, and you never know when you're going to come up with a diamond in the rough.

And the Chicago Bears may have found one in former Howard running back/special teams weapon Ian Wheeler. The Bears have already added to their running back stable this offseason by signing D'Andre Swift in free agency, but the NFL's new rules regarding the kickoff might benefit a player like Wheeler.

Ian Wheeler could be a UDFA steal for the Chicago Bears

The athletic traits for Ian Wheeler are obvious. He's got elite speed (4.39 in the 40-yard dash) and explosiveness (38.5-inch vertical jump). It's one thing to have traits, and another thing entirely to be able to put them to good use. And that's exactly what Wheeler does, especially in the return game.

The new kickoff rule in the NFL for 2024 greatly benefits players with return skills. In recent years, a player like Wheeler might have not had great value to NFL teams in the return game because kickoffs had virtually been eliminated. Since that's no longer the case, a team like Chicago could prioritize someone with top-flight return skills over a player like Travis Homer, who has made a home in the NFL in other phases of special teams.

The "hidden yardage" of special teams and the return game can be so valuable, especially for a team like the Bears with a rookie quarterback. Having options in the return game that can flip the field in a hurry or completely change the momentum of a game is massive.

When this guy gets a full head of steam, he's hard to track down. Combining his "see ya" speed with vision in the open field makes him incredibly dangerous in the return game, but Wheeler also has nice hands as a receiver.

Overall, this just feels like a really smart signing for the Chicago Bears after the draft, and a player who will be worth watching closely as the 2024 NFL preseason unfolds. If he can't win a spot with the Bears, perhaps his return prowess will earn him a chance elsewhere.