Roquan Smith’s excellence at linebacker is not lost on us.
As he enters his fifth season, Smith has put together quite the résumé. The Georgia product is coming off consecutive second-team All-Pro nods. NFL dot com writer Nick Shook would’ve had him on its All-Pro team (if it was up to him). And not to be left out of the discussion, Smith was nominated for being generally awesome while being the Bears’ choice for the 2021 Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award. For good measure, we might as well toss in Smith earning the Ed Block Courage Award after the 2020 campaign.
More recently, Smith made a prestigious list of 25 players who have yet to play in their age 25 season. And the recently-turned-25-year-old linebacker continues to receive more praise. Because in an ESPN survey of NFL executives, coaches, and scouts, Smith makes the cut as one of the league’s top-10 linebackers. Smith checks in as the fifth-best linebacker, coming in ahead of stud LBs such as Bobby Wagner, Lavonte David, Termaine Edmunds, and others. Only Devin White, Fred Warner, Micah Parsons, and Darius Leonard come in higher than Smith in the rankings.
In other words, Smith finds himself smack-dab in the middle of good company. So much so, one NFL coordinator gave Smith the highest praise one can give (or get):
“Best overall LB in my opinion,” an NFL coordinator said, via ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler. “Others might be slightly better in one of the four facets of the game — run game, pass coverage, blitzer, leadership — but that kid is top four in every category.”
Well, dang. That’s awfully nice to say. And accurate, too. Smith is stellar in each of those aspects of the game. Hence, his landing as a top-5 linebacker in these rankings.
Smith’s spot really puts Robert Quinn’s perceived snub in perspective. There isn’t an anti-Bears bias when it comes to these rankings. Although, a Pro Bowl player telling Fowler that Smith would be seen as the best in the biz if he played “somewhere like Dallas” feels damning and indicative of football biases as a whole. But when league-wide expectations for the Bears are low and Smith is still getting high grades like this, then it is a sign that we’ve got something special in the middle of Chicago’s defense. Let’s enjoy it while we can.