There are times where the eye test, stat sheet, and advanced metrics don’t meet eye-to-eye. And when it comes to Chicago Bears rookie linebacker Roquan Smith, that appears to be the case.
Uh, Roquan not even on the list? https://t.co/QaxHc5Xktl
— Bleacher Nation Bears (@BN_Bears) December 22, 2018
So what gives when it comes to Roquan Smith rankings at PFF? Well, according to the site’s grading scale … everything. Smith’s 58.4 run defense grade and 64.2 coverage grade leaves a ton to be desired, while his 69.9 pass-rush grade isn’t nice enough to push his grade up among the best rookie linebackers. If you were to use only the grades provided by Pro Football Focus, you’d think Smith is struggling in his maiden voyage as a professional football player. But the traditional stats paint a different picture.
Smith is now 14 games into his rookie season and leads the team in total tackles (108) and solo tackles (80), and is tied for fourth in tackles-for-loss (6). And just to show how well-rounded his game is, Smith also has four sacks, four quarterback hits, a forced fumble, and an interception. Judging by those numbers, like Smith’s summertime holdout seems like a distant memory at this point. And from the perspective of the eye test, it’s fair to surmise that Smith has excelled in every facet of the game. He has shown sure-handed tackling ability, pure athleticism, and high-end speed while solidifying the inside linebacker position while playing alongside Danny Trevathan.
While PFF’s grading scale might not buy in to Smith’s game, opposing players and coaches appear to like what they’re seeing from the University of Georgia product. Smith was selected to be a Pro Bowl alternate, which is a fine accomplishment for a rookie. Moreover, because Smith didn’t finish as a top vote-getter at his position in the fan vote, it means votes from players and coaches around the league pushed Smith onto the cusp of playing in the annual all-star game. That’s not nothing, folks.
In the end, having a disconnect between traditional stats, the eye test, and advanced metrics is hardly new. If anything, it’s par for the course when it comes to analysis. But still … the drastic differences makes me wonder if we’re missing something we should be picking up on. Think about it. PFF’s grades aren’t done on a whim. The site has a staff with more than 300 members watching, analyzing, and grading every player and every game. And then those grades are subject to change after reviewing All-22 footage. It’s as comprehensive of a look as it gets. And yet, it leaves us wanting so much more from an explanation standpoint. But until that day comes, the debate rages on.