The Bears drafted a linebacker with their fourth-round pick — but one who prides himself on playing inside.
Western Kentucky linebacker Joel Iyiegbuniwe was chosen with the 15th pick of the fourth round Saturday. He played outside linebacker in 2016 but moved inside last year when the Hilltoppers switched to a 4-2-5 scheme. The team lists him as an inside linebacker, though Iyiegbuniwe said the Bears have yet to talk to him about which position he’ll play.
“I’ve played inside and outside,” he said. “I’ve done pretty well with both, so whatever it is they need me to play, I’ll play that.”At the NFL Scouting Combine, teams asked him about his position preference.“They asked me what I wanted to play and I told them I wanted to be an inside linebacker, that’s what I want to do” he said. “Tthis past year at Western Kentucky, that’s what I played and I had my best season.”The Bears didn’t talk to him at all before the draft.
“I didn’t have any visits with them, I didn’t fly out to them, I didn’t work out with them,” he said. “So it was pretty much today was the first time I had any kind of contact.”
The Bears desperately need an edge player, but the 6-1, 229-pounder undersized for a 3-4 outside linebacker. If they keep him at inside linebacker, he’ll join a glut that includes first-round pick Roquan Smith, plus Danny Trevathan, Nick Kwiatkoski, John Timu and Jonathan Anderson.
He recorded 116 tackles and 11 1/2 tackles for loss last year, leading the Hilltoppers as a team captain, before deciding to leave after the his junior year. As a sophomore, he had 10 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks and three pass break-ups while starting all 14 games.
He has extensive special teams experience, having played guard on punt team the last three years. He played kickoff coverage for two years, and kick return for a while.
Nicknamed “Iggy,” he wants to attend medical school to become a pediatricia , eventually. He said he chose to leave Western Kentucky after his junior year because he would have had to take graduate courses to play next season — and he wanted his next academic step toward medical school.
The Bears entered the day with four picks on the draft’s final day: the 15th pick of the fourth round, the eighth pick of the fifth round, the seventh pick of the sixth round and the sixth pick of the seventh round. The Bears acquired the fourth-round pick last year in a trade with the Cardinals to move back in the second round. They traded their own fourth-round pick Friday in the Anthony Miller trade.