#8 Bears: ILB Roquan Smith
NFL Draft Scout
A two-year starter at Georgia, Smith starred as the weakside linebacker in Kirby Smart's base 3-4 scheme, improving with each game and separating himself as one of the best linebackers in college football. His MVP performance in the 2017 SEC Championship Game will be used by NFL evaluators to describe why he belongs in the top half of round one.
Smith is a natural ball hunter with outstanding play speed, assignment sound technique and high football IQ to key, diagnose and flow, consistently putting himself in the right place at the right time. He doesn't have elite take-on skills to be a traditional thumper, but his athleticism and instincts make him scheme diverse and a three-down player.
Overall, Smith is a magnet to the ball and his professional make-up and mental alertness make him a high-ceiling, high floor prospect for the next level - one of the best defensive players in the 2018 class and top-10 projection.
In my Dec 5 Stock Report: A look at NFL prospects who helped themselves over championship weekend: Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia, JR. (6-0, 224, 4.64, #3)...In my recent mock draft, only one linebacker made the cut and surfaced in the first round: Smith to the Dallas Cowboys at No. 15 overall. And in the SEC Championship Game against Auburn, the junior only reinforced his status as a potential top-15 draft pick if he chooses to declare. Smith finished with a game-high 13 tackles, two tackles for loss, one sack and two fumble recoveries, earning the game's MVP honors. The performance was basically a microcosm of the dominance he has shown all season, proving himself to be the most valuable player on a Bulldogs' defense full of future pros.
The term "sideline-to-sideline" speed is often overused for linebackers, but Smith deserves that description because of his quick first step to track the ball, followed by the reaction to unlock and close on the ball-carrier, finishing with the balance and physicality to shut down the run. As if his weekend wasn't already impressive enough, Smith was recognized as the winner of the Butkus Award (nation's top linebacker) Sunday night in a surprise ceremony during Georgia's end-of-season awards event.
- Dane Brugler, NFLDraftScout.com
A four-star linebacker recruit out of high school, Roquan Smith earned Class AA Defensive Player of the Year honors his senior season at Macon County and was considered a top-five recruit in the state of Georgia - grew up in the small town of Montezuma (3,000 population). He was more of a basketball star early in his high school career before dedicating himself in the weight room and packing muscle onto his 175-pound frame. Smith narrowed his college choice to UCLA and Georgia, originally committing to the Bruins on national signing day, mostly due to his relationship with defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich. However, Ulbrich left that same day to become the defensive coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons and Smith switched his commitment to the homestate Bulldogs.
Smith played in 12 games as a true freshman reserve in 2015, posting 20 tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss. He earned the starting WILL linebacker spot as a sophomore in 2016 and led the team with 95 tackles, adding 5.0 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles and one pass break-up. Smith had his best season as a junior in 2017 and was named the Butkus Award winner.
Outstanding range and play speed to the perimeter. Moves well laterally and unlocks his hips to instantly accelerate, cutting off outside runs. High-level instincts with the mental processing speed to trust his eyes and react, sniffing out fakes and not falling for eye candy. Quick reflexes to mirror ballcarriers to the hole. Gap-sound and takes precise angles when attacking downhill. Excellent job coming to balance as a tackler, wrapping and finishing through his hips. Doesn't miss tackles due to strong hands and technique. Not an overpowering strength player, but plays low to scrape and unwind himself from blocks. Elusive to avoid second level blocks. Talented blitzer, using flexibility to avoid backfield blockers. Looks like a safety in coverage with the awareness to zone drop and choke throwing lanes. Low-key, grounded personality and a lead-by-example type - described as the "unquestioned leader" of the defense by Georgia head coach Kirby Smart, who compared him to C.J. Mosley. Innately motivated and self-accountable. Wants to be great and boasts the work habits required in the NFL. Productive in the classroom (3.0 GPA). Improved production each season, leading the Bulldogs in tackles each of the past two seasons. - Dane Brugler 12/12/2017
A tick undersized, lacking ideal NFL height or length. Muscle bulk is near maxed out. Only average take-on skills and needs to improve his efficiency engaging and disposing of blockers. Does his best work in space or outside the hashes, occasionally allowing himself to be bullied at the line of scrimmage. Needs to improve his route recognition and avoid grabbing. Didn't miss a game the past two seasons, but did sit out 2017 spring practice due to a shoulder issue (March 2017). - Dane Brugler 12/12/17
COMPARES TO: Thomas Davis, Carolina Panthers – Similar to when Davis entered the NFL, Smith will be considered undersized by many, but the athleticism and playmaking skill-set are why Davis is a former All-Pro and why Smith is considered one of the better defensive prospects in the draft.
IN OUR VIEW: Although he lacks ideal length and take-on power, Smith is a magnet to the ball and his professional make-up and mental alertness make him a high-ceiling, high floor prospect for the next level. Simply put, he is one of the best defensive players in the 2018 class and worthy of top-10 consideration.