Roquan Smith came to the University of Georgia in 2015 as a four-star linebacker from Macon County High in Montezuma, Georgia. Smith, who originally committed to UCLA, backed off his pledge to the Bruins and signed with the home-state Bulldogs.
The rest is history.
As a true freshman in 2015, Smith played in 12 games and finished with 20 tackles. In 2013, he moved into the starting lineup and had an outstanding year. Smith recorded 95 tackles, five for loss and forced two fumbles. However, it was 2014 where Smith really stood out in Kirby Smart’s defense.
Smith finished his junior campaign with 137 tackles, 14 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks. Smith was a unanimous All-American and won the Butkus Award as the nation’s top linebacker and was also chosen as the SEC Defensive Player of the Year. Just go back and watch the College Football Playoff to see Smith’s true impact as a sideline-to-sideline defender.
After his breakout season, Smith declared for the NFL Draft, and by most accounts, Smith is a certain top-15 pick. Smith will probably go in the latter half of the top 10.
The Numbers, Part I
#Georgia LB Roquan Smith has added some bulk for the NFL Combine— Deuce Windham (@RevDeuceWindham) March 2, 2018
Weight: 236 Lbs
The Numbers, Part II
Roquan Smith posted an elite #RAS at the Combine and his Pro Day.— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) April 20, 2018
"Displays rare range with the footspeed to chase down jet sweeps playside/backside before the ball escapes to the perimeter." pic.twitter.com/LLsINgvQdf
Smith’s speed is his biggest asset. However, he’s more than just a fast guy playing football. Smith has terrific instincts that make him an ideal inside linebacker at the next level. Smith diagnoses running plays extremely well and gets into the backfield often. He’s a hard hitter who showed in 2017 that he actually get to the quarterback, too.
Due to his outstanding athleticism, Smith is also solid in coverage. With today’s NFL so focused on mismatches, Smith is a perfect fit. He can defend quick backs or tight ends. That will help him stay on the field at all times. Smith could also be an outstanding weak-side linebacker in a 4-3 defense, similar to Lavonte David of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
For a player of his size, Smith has also stayed healthy throughout his career.
Smith isn’t a perfect prospect, but he’s pretty clean. The biggest knock on Smith is his size. If a team drafts him to be an inside linebacker in a 3-4, Smith may be considered a bit small. At 236 pounds, Smith is a little light, but if he can stay around that weight, he will be just fine.
Inside linebackers who are Smith’s size sometimes struggle getting off blocks. That wasn’t an apparent issue at Georgia for Smith.
If Smith is drafted by a team playing the 4-3 defense, his size becomes less of an issue.
Smith won’t have to wait too long to hear his name called on Thursday night. He makes sense for several teams in the top 10, particularly Indianapolis, San Francisco, Chicago and Oakland, with his absolute floor being No. 13 where the Washington Redskins pick.
If Quenton Nelson is off the board at No. 8, the Bears could be choosing between Smith or Tremaine Edmunds. If this is the case, Smith would be an outstanding choice for the Bears who happen to have a pretty good history with inside linebackers.