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2018 NFL Draft: Bears draft Joel Iyiegbuniwe at No. 115 overall

Ryan Pace pulled a rabbit out of the hat with the pick of Iyiegbuniwe, as Chicago looks to set it’s inside linebacking future.

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It’s not an NFL Draft without Bears general manager Ryan Pace drawing a collective chorus of “Who?” with one of his picks. In the middle of the fourth round, the Bears selected Western Kentucky’s Joel Iyiegbuniwe with the No. 115 overall pick of the 2018 NFL Draft.

At first glance, this seems like more of a lesser known prospect than someone that is highly touted and who fills a need for Chicago. Iyiegbuniwe or “Iggy” has plus instincts and was incredibly productive in college, so the upside the Bears see is obvious. What’s disconcerting is that he’s more of an obscure talent and doesn’t fill a primary need at edge rusher or offensive tackle. Stocking the cupboard for the future is likely the Pace ideal with this move, but we won’t see that come into fruition until time passes.

Let’s grade the pick of Iyiegbuniwe at No. 115 overall.

Grade: C

Iyiegbuniwe the pick and player is fine. Yeah, that’s it. He’s fine. If the Bears are taking two inside linebackers in one draft in the first four rounds, that clearly means they think it is their greatest position of need. Taking Iyiegbuniwe in the fourth means they believe he is a starter. Let’s spell it out better.

  • Danny Trevathan only has $1.5 million in dead cap space if the Bears cut him after 2018. Remember that he hasn’t been entirely healthy through his first two seasons in Chicago.
  • Some reports have Nick Kwiatkoski moving over to outside linebacker in defensive coordinator Vic Fangio’s scheme like Christian Jones once did.

The Bears are preparing for life without Trevathan with the selection of Iyiegbuniwe. They want to lock in their inside linebacking duo with Roquan Smith. More time will have to be given to properly evaluate Iyiegbuniwe, given the fact that he came from lesser competition, but that’s a fine roster construction.

Given the caliber of other players available, especially on the defensive edge with Duke Ejiofor and Josh Sweat, this selection becomes much less palatable however. I’m not particularly comfortable with moving Kwiatkoski to become more of a pass rusher, as he’s never done that full time, so that’s a huge projection. Unless Pace is executing some kind of move for someone else later on in the draft, your edge group is Leonard Floyd, Aaron Lynch, Kwiatkoski, and Sam Acho. This is a disconcerting slippery slope that you would the Bears don’t travel down.

Historically, inside linebacker isn’t the most premium of positions in the NFL overall, but Fangio has loved taking care of it to man his defenses. Right now, aside from previous precedents, it’s difficult to understand the Bears’ defensive plan. If Iyiegbuniwe pans out, a lot of ails are solved for an important facet with Fangio, but I fail to see how the pass rush is fixed without more reasonable tinkering.

By all accounts, independently, Iyiegbuniwe should be a hit based off of Pace’s previous history in the fourth round. I guess that’s some kind of consolation and comforting feeling for now.

Now it’s your turn. Grade the Bears selection of Joel Iyiegbuniwe at No. 115 overall in the 2018 NFL Draft.


What grade do you give to the Bears’ selection of Joel Iyiegbuniwe at No. 115 overall?

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Robert Zeglinski is the Bears beat writer for The Rock River Times, an editor for Windy City Gridiron and Inside The Pylon, and is a contributor to Pro Football Weekly and The Athletic Chicago.