2018 Raiders Draft Prospect
Name: Joel Iyiegbuniwe
School: Western Kentucky
Weight: 232 pounds
Unlike many smaller linebackers, Iyiegbuniwe hits with a snap. When facing bigger backs, Iyiegbuniwe sets and drives. That is to say, he plays behind his pads and explodes forward. Iyiegbuniwe takes a decisive path to the tackles. With hands and feet working in unison, he grabs the ballcarrier, and dumps him in one motion. However, Iyiegbuniwe does not look for the wipeout tackle. As a result, few tackles elude his grasp. Forcing three fumbles as an undersized linebacker will open eyes.
For his size, Iyiegbuniwe possesses good power. Not to mention, he uses this in a number of ways. First, he can defeat perimeter blocks with force. Receivers often face an issue on screens when trying to lock on.
In WKU’s scheme, Iyiegbuniwe played a hybrid linebacker spot. He would control the boundary due to pure foot speed. Iyiegbuniwe runs like a safety in a linebacker’s body. In that case, he will shadow receivers with no problem. Yet, he possesses the frame to stay with tight ends. When blitzing, Iyiegbuniwe easily gets the corner and beats the tackle outside. Consequently, he shoots the gap equally well on runs. He tallied 22.5 tackles for loss at WKU. Iyiegbuniwe’s speed helps him destroy screens and swim through traffic.
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To his credit, Iyiegbuniwe differentiates blocks from back and linemen. To put it differently, he adjusts his approach. Against linemen, Iyiegbuniwe will dart under their pad level and use advantage to disengage. When facing backs or receivers, Iyiegbuniwe can rely on power to manage a quick escape.
Regardless of NaVorro Bowman re-signing in Oakland, the Raiders need young talented linebackers that can cover. Marquel Lee lacks the agility to get to outside. Iyiegbuniwe’s speed will allow him to stay with anyone. Additionally, his tackling will get him on the field eventually. For those worried about his size, Iyiegbuniwe’s frame compares nicely with NaVorro Bowman. If Bowman does stay with the Raiders, Iyiegbuniwe would provide an excellent apprentice.
In Paul Guenther’s defense, linebackers need the ability to cover and blitz effectively. However, just pressuring the quarterback is not the goal. When Guenther dials up a linebacker to rush, he must get home quickly. Currently, the Raiders lack many linebackers with that ability. Iyiegbuniwe gets upfield.
Lastly, Iyiegbuniwe provides the Raiders with a Day Three option at linebacker. With four picks in the sixth round, it is a safe bet that Reggie McKenzie will pick one.