Instead of trading up for someone like Bradley Chubb or Quenton Nelson, or going with a raw prospect like Marcus Davenport or Tremaine Edmunds, Chicago went with the immediate need at inside linebacker. Smith is the perfect pick to fill that gap with his instincts, quickness, and ability to read and react.
For the first time for general manager Ryan Pace, he takes a polished player ready to be a stud on the field immediately. It’s not the raw surprise of the past in the first round, but a guy who can change your defense from the get-go. That’s perhaps what the Bears relish now as they’re set to contend soon.
Let’s grade the Bears’ selection of Smith at No. 8 overall.
I have no faults with Smith the player. There’s no shock reaction this time around. He’s the best linebacker in this year’s draft and is going to revolutionize the Bears’ defense. The positives outweigh any negatives. Chicago can safely roll with Danny Trevathan and Smith. Nick Kwiatkoski turns into depth. That’s a very formidable middle Leonard Floyd rejoices with the Georgia reunion. What more can you ask for?
Smith, even more so, can continue on the tradition of linebackers the Bears are known for. It’s not hyperbole to say that he fits in line with Bill George, Dick Butkus, Mike Singletary, and Brian Urlacher. The most overall complete defensive prospect in this year’s draft, Smith is more than a welcome addition to that list of names. He’s a special talent with a knack for tilting the field and being the intimidating tone-setter of a defensive unit. From Day 1, Smith is undoubtedly going to take control of his defense and be the type of linebacker this Bears’ franchise is famous for. That’s something to get excited about. That’s something that can turn Chicago’s defense into elite.
Moving forward, Smith is going to have to answer questions about how he occasionally sheds blocks. In college, there were occasional moments where he was mauled by double teams and moving offensive linemen. The thing is, though, often he avoided being blocked altogether because he knew what the offense was doing and blew up any chance of a big play. He’s going to have the time to gain extra strength to mitigate this and learn how to read professional offensive schemes so this happens less. When you have a player with Smith’s natural ability, a minimal size concern doesn’t factor in. Instincts come first.
Simply put, Smith is a special talent that fits in line with the linebackers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio has previously desired for his defenses. Yes, that’s referring to Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman in San Francisco. He is of the same caliber of player and can have the Bears reach similar heights the way those two Bay Area studs did in northern California.
At the moment, nothing deters me from believing Smith becomes the face of the Bears’ defense and quickly. Chicago made the smart, efficient pick and should be applauded for it. Smith is a player you can build around and you’ll take that at No. 8 overall ten times out of ten.
Somewhere, Floyd, Fangio, and company are undoubtedly beaming at the prospects of their friend and centerpiece Smith turning the Bears into a defensive powerhouse once more. Somewhere, legendary Bears’ linebackers all nod their head in approval too.
Now it’s your turn. Grade the Bears’ selection of Roquan Smith at No. 8 overall.
What grade do you give the Bears’ selection of Roquan Smith at No. 8 overall?
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Robert Zeglinski is the Bears’ beat writer for The Rock River Times, an editor for Windy City Gridiron and Inside The Pylon, and is a contributor to Pro Football and The Athletic Chicago. You can follow him on Twitter @RobertZeglinski.