Khalil Mack is dominating, Mitch Trubisky is growing, and the Chicago Bears are winning. But we shouldn’t look past what 2018 first-rounder Roquan Smith is doing in his rookie season.
Smith is the only member of the Bears’ 2018 NFL Draft class to appear on Daniel Jeremiah’s Top 25 rookie rankings over at NFL.com, checking in at No. 15 overall. And Bleacher Report’s Maurice Moton has given the University of Georgia product an “A” grade for his efforts in the first quarter of the season.
As was expected when he was drafted, Smith has provided a jolt of energy and instant impact. Smith sacked DeShone Kizer on his first play ever, was quietly awesome in his first start, and has been solid and productive when in the games that have been played since. Smith is Pro Football Focus’ 21st-highest-graded linebacker (among 85 qualifiers) and owns the 16th best pass-rush grade among his fellow ‘backers. So far, so good if you ask me.
Smith was a top-10 pick, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that he made the list. In fact, I’d argue that there should have been an expectation that the eighth overall pick should have been a virtual lock. But Smith missed the entirety of training camp due to his holdout and didn’t play in a preseason game as the team was extra cautious as he dealt with a hamstring injury. So for Smith to make the cut despite missing a significant number of practice reps and game action (albeit in the exhibition season) says a lot about his talent, ability to pick up the defense, and potential moving forward.
Take a step back and think about it for a moment. Smith hadn’t been with the team since the end of OTAs and has still found a way to flash immense talent in a small sample of games. Even though Smith has played on just 66.5 percent of the defense’s total snaps, his snap share has been above 81 percent in each of the last three weeks. This wouldn’t be the case if Smith wasn’t picking up the playbook or making plays when the opportunities have presented themselves.
The arrow is pointing up for Smith, who will only get better as he gains experience in practice and in the games to come. And just when you thought this defense couldn’t get scarier. There will only be more belief in monsters as this group moves to become fully operational once Smith gets a full grasp of his powers.