There is something that felt oh, so right about the Chicago Bears using a top-10 pick on a Butkus Award winning linebacker in the 2018 NFL Draft.
In a piece for ESPN Insider, Matt Bowen puts together a list of 10 rookies who ended up in perfect situations. Players from this group are expected to produce for their respective teams right away, so it should come as no surprise that Bears inside linebacker Roquan Smith made the cut.
“With the athletic skill set to fit today’s NFL game, Smith is a plug-and-play linebacker for defensive coordinator Vic Fangio,” Bowen writes. “Just look at the natural instincts to find the ball. Or check out the 4.5 speed in space. Smith can close in a hurry. And don’t forget about his tackling technique.”
The combination of athleticism, instincts, and skills led Smith to be a top-tier talent in the draft, and the run on quarterbacks for teams who were hungry for a signal caller allowed him to slide to the back-end of the top-10. Bowen calls Smith a “blue-chip talent” and believes his biggest impact could come in the Bears’ nickel package, where he can show off the top-end speed that allows him to track running backs or go step-for-step with pass-catchers while in coverage.
Bowen isn’t the first to see the Bears and Smith being perfect for each other, either. Walton Spurlin of Pro Football Focus said as much back on April 23. And while Spurlin’s analysis was made with fantasy football in mind, there are aspects of fantasy that are applicable to the games that matter on the gridiron. Spurlin called Smith “the perfect replacement” who owned “all the tools” to get it done at the next level.
Naturally, Spurlin still feels great about the fit. In his most recent piece at PFF, Spurlin projects Smith to step in as a three-down player who can rack up tackles immediately while playing along side Danny Trevathan the same way Jerrell Freeman did back in 2012.
Chicago’s interior linebackers were solid in 2016 when Freeman and Trevathan were healthy. But Freeman is gone and Trevathan has yet to play a full 16-game season in Chicago. Even then, neither has the athleticism or upside Smith possesses. Hence, it’s easy to make a case for Smith being perfect for the Chicago and Chicago being perfect for Smith.