The Bears traded one of their two fourth-round picks in a deal with the Patriots that helped land them Memphis receiver Anthony Miller in the second round, but the team made the most of what they had left:
With the #115 pick in the 2018 #NFLDraft, we select… Joel Iyiegbuniwe, LB, Western Kentucky.
— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) April 28, 2018
Joel Iyiegbuniwe. Joel Iyiegbuniwe. Joel Iyiegbuniwe.
That’s a name that will take some time getting used to typing, so we might as well try to get it into our system while we can. But also, we should probably get into some of the nitty gritty regarding this pick. Let’s roll.
Iyiegbuniwe was a first-team All-Conference USA selection in 2017 after a season in which he led the team with 117 tackles. He was a playmaker for the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, coming up with 11.5 tackles-for-loss. Conference USA isn’t a football hotbed, but Iyiegbuniwe’s athleticism and excellence showed up weekly.
Let’s enjoy some highlights shared by the Bears’ newest player:
— Joel Iyiegbuniwe (@ig_nacious_) February 16, 2018
Iyiegbuniwe is a bit undersized (6-1, 229) but has long arms (32 5/8 inches) and large hands (10 1/4 inches). However, it doesn’t appear as if he is quite sure how to use his length to his advantage, which makes him something of a project. But because the Bears have some pretty solid linebacker depth, they won’t need to count on him being an immediate impact player. Instead, the team could use Iyiegbuniwe in situations where he can use his speed and athleticism to make plays in spurts.
Daniel Jeremiah of the NFL Network crew favorably compared Iyiegbuniwe to Buccaneers linebacker Kwon Alexander. That’s a pretty intriguing comparison, especially when you note Alexander’s size (6-2, 227) and draft position (4th round, 124th overall). Alexander was a Pro Bowl linebacker in 2017, proving once again that great talent can emerge from anywhere.
There were more highly-ranked prospects on the board, which makes this feel like the kind of pick where the front office is showing its faith in defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. Considering Fangio’s role in rebuilding the Bears’ defense over the last three years, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better teacher to get the most out of this prospect.