Selecting Roquan Smith with the eighth pick of the first round was an absolute no-brainer for Ryan Pace. Taking my favorite player in the draft? Icing on the cake.
What did others have to say about the pick? It’s being universally praised. Two things I have heard from a source inside the Bears.
(1) The team was genuinely surprised Roquan became available. There was an assumption by Pace & Co. that Smith wasn’t going to make it by Indianapolis and the team had begun zeroing in on playmaking DB Minkah Fitzpatrick.
(2) Last three first round picks? Georgia. North Carolina. Georgia. The Bears lean heavily on their southeastern scouts and we should all take note.
From the illustrious Adam Jahns:
“I know Vic and his staff will maximize this player, and that’s what’s exciting about it,” Pace said after the first round concluded. “Vic’s been around a lot of good linebacker play, and this just adds to the great linebacker play the Bears have had as well.”
Pace called Fangio’s input “very important” on Smith.
“This is obviously one of Vic’s top players, [and] one of Matt’s top players, my top player,” Pace said. “We might have 10, 12, 15 grades on a guy, and it’s so comforting for me when I can look at that bandwidth of grades and they’re all right next to each other.
“That’s definitely how Roquan was, so it makes the pick really easy when we’re all unified like that.”
Smith fits Fangio’s mold for inside linebackers. At 6-1, 236 pounds, he’s built similarly to former 49ers star Patrick Willis (6-1, 240). And that’s just the start.
Smith’s instincts, range, speed and tenacity, and his take-charge demeanor off the field, also fuel comparisons to Willis, who was a tone-setting, five-time All-Pro in the middle of Fangio’s elite 49ers defenses. Pace said the Smith has “outstanding intangibles.”
From my two high-profile league sources:
- A current league GM: “The perfect Bear middle linebacker.”
- Former NFC personnel man, freelancing for an AFC team this off-season: “Told you several times over the last few weeks. This is my favorite defensive player in the draft. He’s a sure thing.” (He’s not lying. This individual’s praise is the primary reason Roquan became my favorite player in this draft.)
From our own Andrew Dannehy:
The Bears turned their rivalry against the Packers around when they finally got a marquee defensive player to battle with Brett Favre. Now they have somebody to compete against Aaron Rodgers.
It took a while for Urlacher’s Bears to get on the same level as Favre’s Packers. Urlacher was the first piece of that team’s foundation, so Roquan Smith is entering an entirely different situation. The Bears already have a good defense and Smith’s ability to cover the entire field and deliver a blow to ball carriers should take it to the next level.
Smith is the perfect linebacker for the modern NFL. He can drop back 20 yards to take away the middle of the field in the passing game and then chase mobile quarterbacks down when they try to run. He moves as well as some of the top defensive backs in the draft and hits better than any other linebacker.
Smith is to the defense what Trubisky is to the offense. He’s going to be the captain and the player who makes them go. Nick Kwiatkoski and Danny Trevathan are fine players, but Smith is on another level and will help take the Bears’ defense from good to great.
From the fellas over at CBS Sports:
Pete Prisco: They needed a playmaker at linebacker and this kid has Ray Lewis qualities. Like it.
Chris Trapasso: Electric speed-to-power linebacker with sideline-to-sideline capability and comfort in coverage. Diagnoses rapidly and rarely makes a false step. Instant impact. Best linebacker in this class.
From Matt Bowen, via Twitter:
— Matt Bowen (@MattBowen41) April 27, 2018
“LB Roquan Smith was one of the top players I watched on film this year. 4.51 speed to the ball. Tackling at the point of attack. And the ability to play in space. Smith has the talent to make an immediate impact on the Bears defense.”
From Chad Reuter of NFL.com:
The skinny: The Bears found much-needed speed and talent for their defense in Smith. He’s not a physical specimen in the Brian Urlacher mold, but he’s still a force to be reckoned with. The Georgia star was the best player on the board at the eighth pick.
From Andy Benoit at Sports Illustrated:
Vic Fangio is one of the game’s smartest, most nuanced schemers, and two things define a Fangio defense: Blurry zone coverages and nickel packages (almost never dime). A team needs great inside linebackers to do this. Zone disguises start at safety—Fangio likes to keep two back deep—but they’re perfected at linebacker, a position where many defenses don’t think to employ subtle disguises. By playing nickel every snap, even if there are four wide receivers on the field, Fangio places tall orders on his linebackers in coverage. When you have the right ones, it can be great (Remember what Fangio did in San Francisco with Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman?), and Smith, one of the most dynamic all-around stack linebackers in this draft, should fill this role successfully.
From our friend Scott Wright of NFLDraftCountdown:
Once Quenton Nelson came off the board it was obvious the Bears would be going defense with this pick. It was just a matter of whether it would be a linebacker or defensive back, and I think they made the right decision. Smith is really going to bolster a front seven that is short on playmakers and perhaps more importantly be the defensive field general. It’s not every year that an off-the-ball linebacker who isn’t a top pass rusher comes off the board in the top half of the first round. One recent example is Luke Kuechly, who went #9 overall when he was coming out of college. Smith will be expected to have a similar type of impact and I think he’s up to that tall task.