2024 NFL Draft

Grading Bears fifth-round pick: Austin Booker, defensive end

Bears GM Ryan Poles finally addressed the team's defensive line after he traded back into the fifth round

NBC Universal, Inc.

LAKE FOREST, Ill. – Just when we thought the Bears may be done with the 2024 NFL draft, GM Ryan Poles traded back into the fifth round and selected Kansas pass rusher Austin Booker with the No. 144 overall pick.

The Bears were widely expected to add a defensive end this draft, and there was speculation that could be the move at No. 122. But Poles opted for Tory Taylor– a punter with a monster leg, instead– in the end he got both of his guys.

Booker didn’t play much in college, with just 505 snaps to his name per PFF. But he produced a bunch in his limited playing time, with eight sacks and 12 TFL last season. The Bears were most impressed by his high pressure rate, however. Even when he didn’t get home for a sack, the Bears saw him affecting the quarterback.

"You turn on the tape and you see everything you need to see," said Bears scout John Syty. "I mean, the way this kid wins, the way he’s able to win with speed outside, the way he’s able to come underneath with the counter and then deceptively one of his best attributes is this kid’s ability to win with power."

The Bears also believe Booker has room to develop into an even better player. Specifically, they think he can add more weight to his frame and will improve with more experience.

Booker doesn’t figure to push for starting snaps opposite Montez Sweat, but he could play in a rotational role behind both Sweat and DeMarcus Walker. As a fifth-round pick, however, the Bears won’t need him to be a star right away. If he can develop into a solid pass rusher as he learns from Sweat and Walker, the pick will be a success.

Grading a player before he’s taken a snap in the NFL is an inherently unfair thing to do, but we’re going to do it anyways. Given what we know, and the team’s need to add to the defensive line, here's the immediate letter grade we’re handing out.

Grade: B+

Click here to follow the Under Center Podcast.

Contact Us