3 Small School Prospects Bears Should Target in 2024 Draft

In the witching hours the week before the NFL Draft, what players from smaller programs could emerge as draft-day steals for Chicago?
Nov 19, 2022; Auburn, Alabama, USA; Western Kentucky Hilltoppers wide receiver Malachi Corley (11)
Nov 19, 2022; Auburn, Alabama, USA; Western Kentucky Hilltoppers wide receiver Malachi Corley (11) / John Reed-USA TODAY Sports
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3. Marshawn Kneeland, EDGE, Western Michigan

Evaluating good mid-major edge rushers often watching brothers play pickup in the driveway – if the youngest makes a shot, he’s getting backed down into thee stanchion for the next hour. Enter Western Michigan’s Marshawn Kneeland, who effectively gave the little brother treatment to the rest of the MAC in 2023.

Rushing with the full force of his 6’3”, 275-pound frame, Kneeland plays like the valedictorian of the Montez Sweat School of Road Grading. He knows who he is and doesn’t waste many sets trying to work outside on tackles he knows he can almost always go through.

Obviously, that’s where concern arises in the NFL. In my mind, Kneeland’s indominable motor is going to keep him in defensive line rotations with minimal growth. He understands how to clog running lanes by holding blocks and violently disengaging to runners, but his pass rush seems predicated on bull rush after bull rush. His athleticism his predicated in his strength and knockback, but he doesn't enough of a first step to keep up the same act against NFL pass-protectors.

In certain matchups, he’ll be able to power through smaller tackles or take advantage of his long arms to create drive into pockets or the backfield. Without much of a finesse game and lacking the flexibility to turn the corner quickly on tackles, he’ll be a situational rusher and immediate contributor in the occasional five-lineman sets.

With a modicum of growth in his pass-rushing bag, he could quickly become a stylistic successor to Sweat. Even if not, he’d reinforce the Bears’ greatest strength as a run defending team and could take advantage of an ascending secondary by using his motor to accrue coverage sacks.

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