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The Chicago Bears did exactly what everyone expected them to do in the 2024 NFL Draft. They traded Justin Fields to the Steelers prior to the draft, and then used their first overall pick to select quarterback Caleb Williams from USC. They had 2 top-10 picks, and went on to also select receiver Rome Odunze (from Washington) with the 9th overall pick. With their remaining 2 picks in the 3rd and 4th rounds, they selected offensive lineman Kiran Amegadjie from Yale and punter Tory Taylor from Iowa. Lastly, they traded back into the 5th round (by giving away next year's 4th round pick) in order to select edge rusher Austin Booker from Kansas.

Aside from selecting a punter in the 4th round (which may have been a bit of a reach), I don't think anybody was surprised by any of these selections. I also don't think anybody can be disappointed by these selections. Williams and Odunze were exactly who I expected and hoped the Bears to take (I was more excited about Odunze than about Williams).

Caleb Williams
Photo credit: Associated Press, Nam Y. Huh.
The Bears drafted exactly who I expected them to draft with their 2 top-10 picks.

Even the punter is a hard pick to be disappointed with, since he's one of the most elite punter prospects to come out of the draft in a long time, and has the potential to be an All-Pro or Hall of Fame directional kicker. We could argue about whether the Bears reached for this pick. Perhaps they could have traded back, picked Taylor in the 5th round or so, and then also gotten an additional 6th or 7th round pick that could have been used to select a defensive back. I doubt that there were too many teams chomping at the bit to pick a punter in the 4th round. Usually kickers don't start getting drafted until the 6th round.

It is, however, humorously ironic that the Bears invested so heavily in offense (in both free agency and the draft), only to use a 4th round draft pick to select an elite punter.

Again, I'm not disappointed in any of these picks, but I don't think I would have followed the same strategy. The Bears were lacking in picks, with only 4 total selections going into the draft, and they have a lot of areas of need. Signing Keenan Allen in free agency from the Chargers solidified the receiving corps, but the Bears really needed help on the offensive line, and at almost every position on defense. They lost defensive lineman Justin Jones and safety Eddie Jackson to the salary cap, and the defense was kind of a mess through most of last year.

And personally, I'm not a fan of drafting a quarterback to be a "savior" for the franchise. I'm more an advocate for building a good team around your quarterback, and then any decent or good quarterback should have success. In that regard, I would have strongly considered letting Justin Fields finish his 4-year rookie contract. I'm on the record as thinking that poor coaching was as much (or more) responsible for the offense's poor performance than Fields himself was. Receivers ran poor routes, offensive linemen missed blocks and failed to pass off blitzes and stunts, and a lot of play designs looked questionable. I firmly believe that Justin Fields was not the problem with the Chicago Bears over the past few years.

Tory Taylor
Photo credit: Charlie Neibergall, Associated Press.
The only surprise was drafting a punter in the 4th round.

With Fields still on the roster (and maybe a veteran backup, just in case), and without an immediate need for drafting a quarterback, I would have tried to trade with the Commanders, Patriots, or Giants (to the 2nd, 3rd, or 5th pick overall) and maybe gotten additional picks in later rounds. With my 2 top-10 picks, I would then have drafted (in priority order) receiver Marvin Harrison Jr, lineman Joe Alt, and tight end Brock Bowers. I could then use my later picks to select pass rushers and defensive backs, and still get my elite punter (in case the offense still underperforms in 2024).

In this case, if Justin Fields does not show dramatic improvement in 2024, I could pass on his 5th year option, take a quarterback next year (or look for a proven veteran in a trade or free agency), and have a considerably improved team for that quarterback to operate within.

I didn't watch many of Caleb Williams' games at USC. What I've seen from other people's analysis of his strengths and weaknesses makes me worried that he has many of the same weaknesses that Fields has shown. He holds the ball too long if his first read isn't open, he takes sacks, and he has ball security issues. Maybe these analyses are overblown simply to create drama and controversy where none actually exists. One big difference between Williams' game and Fields', is that Williams is much better than Fields at stepping up into the pocket and delivering the ball downfield. He does not share Fields' penchant for spinning out of the pocket, towards his blind side, and running right into a sack.

If Eberflus' coaching staff could not fix these problems with Fields' game, I'm not confident that they can do the same with Williams. Maybe Fields was not coachable in this regard. I don't know, I wasn't at the Bears' practices. I didn't see what the coaches were teaching Fields, and I didn't see how he responded to that teaching. I'm sure Ryan Poles knows a lot more than I do, so I'm not going to second-guess his decisions. I'm just saying that, based on what I saw watching the Bears' games over the past few years, I think the Bears had more fundamental problems than poor play from Justin Fields. Without addressing those other problems, I fear that the Bears will just be scuttling the career of yet another promising rookie quarterback.

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