Tory Taylor

Tory Taylor pick leaves teams kicking themselves in ‘angry texts,' coach says

The Bears are being vindicated for their fourth-round punter pick

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Ryan Poles and the Bears took a leap in the fourth round of the 2024 NFL Draft, selecting Iowa punter Tory Taylor to become the new leg of the team.

It's a daring pick to draft a punter that early. Usually, special teams players go late in the draft, if at all. But, with their last pick in the draft, they took a chance on the draft's best punter.

Seeing as the Bears' roster isn't perfect (whose is?) they caught skepticism from fans about the pick. But special teams coach Richard Hightower told CHGO the Bears feel strongly about the pick and have been vindicated by other teams, too.

"For those that thought that 'Oh my goodness, a punter in the fourth round,'" Hightower started. "Now that the dust has settled, and the text messages have started between special teams coaches and coordinators, Ryan Poles and his staff did a hell of a job with those mock drafts and being on top of all that stuff.

"There was no way he was getting to the fifth round. We got angry coaches on other teams saying 'I can't believe you guys took him' ... in a good way. ... 'We got it wrong and you guys got it right.' So that's cool when you hear your peers say stuff like that. And kudos to Ryan and his staff because he wouldn't have lasted to the backend of the fourth and [he] definitely would've been gone in the fifth. I got that confirmation from three teams already."

So whether you like it or not, Taylor was a known hot commodity come Day 3 of the draft. That's why the Bears jumped at him. And that's why coaches from three other teams, as Hightower mentioned, are kicking themselves (no pun intended) for not taking him, either.

Just know, also, the Bears got the best punter in the draft, if not one of the greatest college football legs of all time.

Taylor is known for having a monster leg and left Iowa with several NCAA records. His 46.3-yard avg. over his career and his 4,479 total punt yards in 2023 are both the best marks of all time. Taylor is also adept at pinning down opponents. He had 32 punts inside the 20-yard line last season and his punts led to 29 fair catches in 2023.

For his efforts, Taylor was named a unanimous All-American last year and won the Ray Guy Award, which recognizes the top punter in the nation.

Shortly after the draft, the Bears cut ties with Trenton Gill, who the Bears drafted in the seventh round of the 2022 NFL Draft. It's all about Taylor and the Bears are excited about the future of their special teams.

"I was super excited as our whole draft room was, as Ryan was, as coach [Matt Eberflus] was," Hightower said. "... The fire and the passion in that room when Tory was drafted was unbelievable; a resounding support. If you really know a lot about football, or even if you know a little about football, but you know every yard matters.

"To get a guy that could be a weapon for us in this phase of the game is just really, really cool."

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