Ryan Bukowiecki covers the Chicago Bears and the NFL for WARR; Each week leading up to the NFL Draft (April 26-28), Ryan and Ken Davis from “The D & Davis Show” offered a scouting report on possible targets for the Bears at No. 8 in the first round, this report is on the Bears eventual pick, Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith.
Well that was fun, the crazy and wild first round of the NFL draft lived up to the hype.
Many draft experts were split and mixed with their feelings on the first overall pick, let alone the rest of the top ten. Regardless, it became clear closer to draft day that at least two quarterbacks would be off the board, along with Saquon Barkley and Bradley Chubb, thus leaving the Bears a pool of players like Denzel Ward, Quentin Nelson, Minkah Fitzpatrick and Roquan Smith available possibly.
The Bears stayed patient, as they should of, and let the draft come to them. Ward went off the board at No. 4 to Cleveland, Nelson went off the board at No. 6 to Indianapolis and finally at No. 8 the Bears made a heck of a selection.
Selecting Smith, the defensive powerhouse in the middle of Georgia’s 2017 SEC champions, may not have yielded the type of play-making ability that a corner, safety or pass rusher might have but Smith is a difference maker. For the Bears to take a player that can start on Week 1 of this coming season, a player who in no way can be branded a “project” like Kevin White or Leonard Floyd is huge.
So whats the hoopla regarding this Roquan Smith guy?
Well, the Bears may have drafted the next Patrick Willis. Not necessarily a fair comparison yet, but they have similar traits (plus, Smith embraces the comparison). Smith is a terrific middle linebacker prospect, a three down player and will not have to leave the field for any reason. The speed (4.51 40-yard at the combine) and instincts are great and he is a sure tackler that plays with physicality.
The main concern about Smith is his size, he doesn’t come in quite as heavy as teams tend to like. Usually the baseline for a linebacker is 240, Smith is 236. Besides that one concern, there really isn’t any others. Smith has never shown that he can’t get off blocks and comes up big in big games. The instincts and sideline to sideline ability is unquestioned and that is why he was ranked as the best linebacker on multiple team’s boards.
Another positive to the pick is that Smith is a gamer. Many felt Smith had a good year in 2016 and even better year in 2017, his two best performances coming in the two college football playoff games against Oklahoma and Alabama. Smith shined against the top competition, flying all over the field making tackles. One final positive is the intangibles of the kid, listening to him speak he sounds professional, passionate and focused on becoming another Bear legend.
Overall, this was a selection where the value was right. Although Smith doesn’t fill the Bears biggest needs, the Bears will still have a chance to address their needs in Round 2 and the rest of the draft.
Ken’s Second Opinion
The pick is in and I have to give props to my co-host Demonze, who called it Wednesday night while we were on with the Alternative Facts Chicago podcast.
Georgia’s Roquan Smith became the top draft selection of the Chicago Bears. In checking the city’s draft barometer last night and this morning, people overall have a very positive view of the year’s eighth overall pick, I have to say I feel the same way, even if he wasn’t my desired selection.
Watching Georgia football this year you saw Smith flash all over the place. It seemed as if when they needed a play, a stop, a breakup or any deciding defensive play he was the Bulldog defender in the center of the action. I also felt he was more than a very good player, but a leader also; you’d desire that from an inside linebacker who you envision leading a professional defense.
Strengths — this man is a guided missile, not some loose cannon throwing himself all over the place, but a smart player who knows where he should be and doesn’t take shortcuts to get there. For instance, in pass plays were some players would cut their angle short and go under the blocking defender to get to the ball carrier, Roquan goes over making the correct play, but also possessing the needed speed to get to the ball carrier.
My first impression is Roquan would be best suited to play weak sided linebacker (Will) or middle linebacker (Mike) in a 4-3 defense. Not saying he couldn’t play in the middle in a 3-4, which the Bears use, I just wasn’t sure if the value was there.
Danny Trevathan will stay at the “Mike” position and Roquan will fill the other middle linebacker spot known as “Jack.” This kid fits the next generation of linebackers in the NFL where speed and the ability to play the pass is a prerequisite, he can mirror running backs, tight ends and some receivers, he’s also a disrupter who breaks up passes with easy and instinct. Smith’s IQ and ability to recognize a play are incredible. During the season I thought, “This guy is the next great middle linebacker in the NFL…” but again, I was thinking 4-3 middle.
Weaknesses — Smith is 6’1” so he can be considered undersized, but that isn’t a main worry for me, he is a little light, but he has a build that can add weight as time goes on. Not great on the edges and takes a little longer then desired to shed blocks but Smith can improve this with technique as he adapts to the league, he also going to need to watch being tricked watching the ball instead of the developing play.
Overall, Smith is a stud. I’m not joking. Again, he wasn’t my desired selection but if you were going to select Edmunds from Virginia Tech and leave him as an inside linebacker, why not just go ahead and select the best inside linebacker in the draft. If Roquan stays healthy he should only add to the Bears’ lineage of great linebackers.
Follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanbski and Ken @ThatsDavis; Follow We Are Regal Radio on Twitter @regalradio1 and on Facebook under We Are Regal Radio