The Chicago Bears built a bunch of momentum heading into the third day of the NFL Draft, after taking three players who are projected to be early starters with their first three picks. Then, their fourth-round selection of Western Kentucky linebacker Joel Iyiegbuniwe was announced and eyebrows were raised across the greater Chicagoland area.
There was a perception that the Bears reached for Iyiegbuniwe. And worse, the vibe was that the team picked a player who didn’t play a position of need and might have been viewed by some as a non-fit. But what if it turns out taking Iyiegbuniwe in the fourth round wasn’t much of a stretch at all?
NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah knows a thing or two about unearthing scouting gems – before his work graced television, podcasts, and the internet, he spent eight years working in the NFL for the Cleveland Browns (national scout), Baltimore Ravens (west coast area scout), and Philadelphia Eagles (college area scout) – and as far as I’m concerned, his analysis regarding college prospects carries a little more weight than others.
So when Jeremiah says not to sleep on the Bears’ fourth-round pick, just know I’m going to be all ears. Here’s what he wrote in early April: “Iyiegbuniwe is an undersized player with exceptional quickness and range. He makes plays sideline to sideline and explodes through the hips on contact. He has the agility to match up in man coverage with tight ends and running backs. He’s worthy of a late second- or early third-round selection.”
A second- or third-round grade on Iyiegbuniwe certainly changes the perception of this pick, doesn’t it? No two draft boards are going to be precisely the same. But if the Bears’ board saw Iyiegbuniwe in the same light as Jeremiah, then at least their decision has some merit. Or at minimum, a valid explanation.
Choosing Iyiegbuniwe was something of a head-scratching decision when it was originally announced – especially after the Bears drafted Roquan Smith in the first round and had yet to draft players at other need positions – but if we were to use Jeremiah’s perspective as a guide, then the Bears not only avoided a head-scratcher … they may have gotten a steal.