The first three players selected by the Chicago Bears in the 2018 NFL Draft drew a ton of praise from analysts who saw the team add three projected starters and fans who saw the picks as impact players (and not projects) who fit positions of need.
Because the overwhelmingly positive vibes were never going to last forever, there was some push-back when the Bears chose Western Kentucky linebacker Joel Iyiegbuniwe in the fourth round with pick No. 115. A small-school linebacker with concerns regarding size and playing experience against top-notch competition, the Iyiegbuniwe was viewed by many as a curious choice. But perhaps an explanation from one of the scouts who saw Iyiegbuniwe first hand will bring clarity to the situation.
In a video posted on the Bears’ YouTube channel, radio play-by-play voice Jeff Joniak interviews Sam Summerville, an area scout whose input helped the Bears land on drafting Iyiegbuniwe in the fourth round. In his analysis of the pick, Summerville said it was easy for Iyiegbuniwe to stand out at a small program because of his traits.
“This guy has size, he has speed, he has athleticism, and you see all the tools there for him to develop,” Summerville explained. “All he needs to do is refine those a little bit.”
And judging by how Summerville talks about what Iyiegbuniwe brings to the table, it sounds like professional coaching could take the rookie to the next level.
“He doesn’t have a whole lot of experience coming from a small high school program going to Western Kentucky,” Summerville said. “He was coached well at Western Kentucky, but he moved positions and hasn’t done a whole lot of things at one spot. As he gains more experience, his ceiling is just limitless and that’s why you see a guy who has such great upside.”
While there is a feeling of certainty that comes with early-round picks, that really doesn’t exist with picks made on Day 3. Hence, teams search for players with particular traits and skills with the hope of developing them into contributors.
It’s not that Iyiegbuniwe doesn’t have the skills to do big things at the NFL level. Summerville talked about Iyiegbuniwe having all the having the necessary tools – experience playing outside and inside linebacker, range, instincts, coverage skills – to become an impact player at the next level. It’s just that Iyiegbuniwe needs to refine them in order to reach his potential. And if Iyiegbuniwe does so, it will be a credit to the Bears’ scouting department for finding him and the coaching staff for getting him up to speed.
You can watch the embedded video below for Summerville’s full analysis on the pick below: