Kylie Fitts was projected to be picked by the fifth round of the NFL draft on Saturday afternoon.
Waiting until the sixth round did not dampen the excitement one bit.
The Chicago Bears selected the Utah defensive end with the seventh pick in the sixth round, No. 181 overall, on Saturday.
“It’s a huge blessing, just kind of a dream,” Fitts told The Tribune. “I wasn’t expecting to go this late, but I know God has a plan and everything happens for a reason. So I believe this is the right fit for me, and I’m excited to go out to Chicago and be a Bear.”
Fitts, a 6-foot-4, 263-pound defensive end, performed well in the Senior Bowl practices and the NFL Combine, but being plagued by injuries during his collegiate career likely played a big part to him waiting to hear his name called until the sixth round.
Fitts excelled at rushing the passer as a defensive end for the Utes, but the Bears project him as a linebacker in their 3-4 defensive scheme.
“It’s honestly a great position for me,” Fitts said. “The last four months I’ve been working nonstop linebacker drills and all that. I think I’m going to go there and do well and fit right in. I’m excited and definitely think it’s going to be a great fit for me at outside ‘backer.”
Fitts described being picked by the Bears as a surprise. Though he had talked with some of the Bears staff at the Senior Bowl and the NFL Combine, he didn’t have a lot of communication with them leading up to the draft. He did work out alongside Bears first-round pick Roquan Smith, a linebacker from Georgia, in preparation for the draft.
Fitts accumulated 68 tackles (37 solo), 14 tackles for a loss and 11.5 sacks in 25 career games at Utah. Injuries limited Fitts to 12 games in his last two seasons, and he saw limited snaps in five of his 10 games as a senior.
Fitts ranked as a four-star recruit and the ninth-best defensive end in the nation by Rivals.com out of high school in California. ESPN ranked him as the 85th-best prospect in the nation in his graduating class.
“When he’s been out there and he’s 100 percent, he can rush the passer,” ESPN longtime draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said of Fitts during the network’s broadcast. “The arm length, you wish was a little bit better. He’s only got 33-inch arms, 4.69 [40-yard dash] speed though off the edge. He can close. Thirty-one reps [on the bench press]. He has enormous upper-body strength, and he’s an athletic kid.”
Fitts was the only Utah player selected in the draft, one year after eight Utes were selected. The last year the Utes didn’t have a player drafted through the first five rounds was 2008.
The agent for defensive lineman Filipo Mokofisi confirmed that Mokofisi agreed to a free-agent deal with the Green Bay Packers, and defensive back Kenric Young announced on Twitter that he’d agreed to go to minicamp with the Indianapolis Colts. Other players who’ve agreed to deals with NFL teams, according to the university, were defensive lineman Lowell Lotulelei (Denver Broncos), offensive lineman Salesi Uhatafe (Atlanta Falcons) and quarterback Troy Williams (Seattle Seahawks).