The Chicago Bears didn’t move up or down in the first round, but still landed one of the draft’s best defensive prospect. So let’s take some time to get to know the next great Bears linebacker.
THE PICK (ROUND 1, PICK 8)
- Name: Roquan Smith
- College: Georgia
- Position: Linebacker
- Age: 21
- Height, weight, hand size, arms: 6-foot-1, 236 pounds, 10 inches, 32 inches
NEED TO KNOW
- 2017 stats: 15 games, 137 tackles (85 solo), 14 tackles-for-loss, 6.5 sacks, 2 passes defended, 2 fumble recoveries, 1 forced fumble
- Career stats: 38 games, 252 tackles (146 solo), 20.5 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks, 3 passes defended, 3 fumble recoveries, 3 forced fumbles
- 2017 accomplishments: Consensus All-American, Butkus Award, SEC Defensive Player of the Year, First-team All-SEC, SEC Championship Game MVP, 10th in Heisman voting
We’ve got @RoquanSmith1 highlights here.
— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) April 27, 2018
NFL COMBINE RESULTS (POSITION RANK)
- 40-yard dash: 4.51 (2nd)
(Seriously, that’s it. Smith did not participate in any other Combine activities.)
- Superb speed. If you got around to watching Georgia play, you probably noticed Smith as a standout defender because of his top-end speed that allowed him to track ball carriers from sideline-to-sideline. So when you see Smith’s 4.51 time in the 40-yard dash, you’re probably not surprised. It’s a beautiful thing when timed speed and game speed line up.
- Top-notch tackling ability. Smith had the most total run stops without a missed tackle of any linebacker in the 2018 NFL Draft, according to Pro Football Focus. He picked up 70 total tackles and 37 stops, showing off his dominance as a defender.
- Solid instincts. Speed and skills are important, but football IQ is something that can bring it all together. At Georgia, Smith played disciplined football, showed an ability to read, react, respond, and attack against play action, while having a good sense of awareness when placed in zone coverage. Smith is a do-it-all linebacker who projects to be someone who won’t have to come off the field, save for a breather here and there.
- Let’s talk about size. By traditional linebacker standards, Smith (6-1, 236) is undersized. But as Matt Eurich of 247Sports points out, some of the league’s better linebackers were in similar height and weight ranges to Smith. Danny Trevathan, Lance Briggs, and Patrick Willis are among those cut from what looks to be a similar cloth. Height doesn’t measure heart … or production.
- Shedding blocks can be an issue at times for Smith. I suppose that could be somewhere size matters, but tweaking a technique, getting better coaching, and increased attentiveness could help Smith avoid being engulfed by bigger linemen.
- There are times where Smith’s speed can be a detriment, like when he overruns a play and it takes him out of a situation where he can make a stop on a ball-carrier. It doesn’t occur often, but happens to even the best of them.
NFL.COM COMPARISON: Deion Jones.
WHERE SMITH FITS
The Bears looked to have a good thing going at inside linebacker with Jerrell Freeman and Danny Trevathan teaming in the middle. But Freeman played in just 13 games in two seasons, as injuries and a pair of PED-related suspensions kept him off the playing surface. However, we have come to a new day in Chicago with Smith expecting to slot in as the other starting inside linebacker next to Trevathan.
Smith has everything you want in a linebacker. High-end athletic ability, strong football IQ, an impact tackler with pass-coverage abilities, and the intangibles that suggest he’ll be to a leader on defense. And to think, he could still be just scratching the surface and the best could still be on its way.
One year after drafting Mitch Trubisky to lead the offense into the future, selecting Smith represents an opportunity to bring along someone who can quarterback the defense.