Chicago Bears: Rookie expectations for Roquan Smith

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 02: Wil Appleton
ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 02: Wil Appleton /

Roquan Smith made a name for himself during the College Football Playoff. Does he have what it takes to have an instant impact in the NFL?

The Chicago Bears’ rebuild was a quick one. After deciding to move on from the nonchalant Jay Cutler, the Bears appeared to be in need of some major remodeling. Many questioned their strategy after trading up one pick to take risky gunslinger Mitch Trubisky.

Despite obvious offensive dismay, the bright spot on this team was the defensive unit. Quietly, they managed to finish in the top ten in points allowed per game, passing yards allowed per game, and total yards allowed.

The only stat they didn’t finish in the top ten of was in rushing yards allowed, in which they finished eleventh.

One final piece was needed for the Bears’ defense to push into the elite ranks: A sidekick for their beast manning the middle, Danny Trevathan. And that piece fell right into their lap.

Roquan Smith made a name for himself in 2017. The quick-footed Smith flew around to wrap up an SEC-leading 137 tackles last season. On any given play, you can find Smith poking his nose into any scrum he can get his hands on.

Smith posseses decent size to play in the middle of a defense at 6’1″ and 236 pounds. To make up for what lacks in build, Smith flashed his speed by running a 4.51 40 time.

To add to Smith’s elite speed, he also has an innate ability to read and sniff out opposing offensive plays. His most special attribute is his rare ability to cover. Not every inside linebacker can stay on the field on third down.

Smith can do that, and he will do it at an elite level.

There’s some downside to Smith’s game. While Smith is a dominant force, he wasn’t the most versatile backer in this years class. His size has been his downfall on many occasions. Oftentimes, Smith was swallowed up by opposing linemen who were able to reach the second level.

Getting off blocks is easily his biggest weakness. This made what team he ended up with very crucial to his success.

Smith’s natural habitat is playing as a Will backer on the weak side. Thankfully, he was taken by a team that already has a high tier Mike linebacker in Trevathan.

A good indicator of Smith’s contribution in 2018 comes solely from his draft position.  Inside linebackers are rarely worth an early selection. The last taken in that range was Luke Kuechly in 2012.

He would finish his rookie year with a whopping 164 tackles.

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Roquan Smith was drafted as high as he was primarily because of how ready he is to play right away. Expect him to be on the field early and often right off the bat.

Any tackle total below 90 would be disappointing for Smith.