The Bears traded up four spots in the fourth round to select West Virginia inside linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski with the 113th overall pick of the NFL draft.
The 6-2, 241-pound Kwiatkoski (pronounced Quit-COW-skee) was a three-year starter at West Virginia. He had 86 tackles, 10 tackles-for-loss, seven pass-breakups, three sacks and three interceptions as a senior in 2015. A team captain last season, Kwiatkoski is considered an overachiever who can make a big impact on special teams.
“I play hard-nosed linebacker,” Kwiatkoski said. “I like to hit and be physical, but I’m versatile, so I can cover. I played many positions at West Virginia, so I think that make me versatile.”
The Bears traded their top fourth-round pick (117th overall) and their sixth-round pick (206th overall) to move up four places to 113 to select Kwiatkoski.
“The Bears have a long lilne of great linebackers. That’s something that makes me really happy to be a part of,” Kwiatkoski said. “They’re a hard-nosed defense. I haven’t really talked to anyone about where I’m going to be in the defense yet, but I feel like I bring versatility and just linebacker instincts. I’m happy to work.”
Kwiatkoski was a former teammate of Bears wide receiver Kevin White, the team’s first-round pick last season. “I’m pretty close with Kevin,” Kwiatkoski said. “He came into West Virginia as a juco [junior college] player, lived two doors down from me and I have stayed close with him. I lived with his brother Ka’Raun at West Virginia this past year.”
Kwiatkoski, who played tailback, receiver and safety at Bethel Park (Pa.) High School — about 35 miles south of Alquippa — came to West Virginia as a safety but was moved to linebacker after his redshirt year. He’s known as a student of the game and a quick study. He led the Mountaineers in tackling in each of his first three starts at middle linebacker as a red-shirt sophomore and was the team’s leading tackler for the season.
He ended up starting 37 games at linebacker — 36 his final three seasons — and finished his career with 28 tackles-for-loss, 5 1/2 sacks, 14 pass break-ups and six interceptions. He credited much of his success to “just staying in the film room.”
“Probably the hardest thing was just reacting so close to the line of scrimmage,” he said. “But seeing the films, I learned to do things, techniques. It definitely helped me become a better linebacker quicker than just playing a lot.”
Draft evaluator Nolan Nawrocki had Kwiatkoski pegged as a third- to fourth-round pick. His scouting report:
“Versatile, active, highly competitive ‘backer who fits a throwback mold. Brings the type of dependability and lunch-pail mentality valued in the middle of a defense. Ability to interchange between any LB spot in “40” front will endear him to coaches. Minimally contributes as a 4-phase core special teamer as a rookie and has eventual starter potential.”