Bears select rangy LB Smith with first-round pick


Bears first-round pick, LB Roquan Smith of Georgia.

Bears first-round pick, LB Roquan Smith of Georgia

After adding offensive skill position players during free agency, the Chicago Bears turned to bolstering its defense with the first-round selection of Georgia LB Roquan Smith during Thursday night’s NFL Draft.

Smith, 6-1, 225, bypassed his senior year to enter the draft after spearheading the Bulldogs attack unit during a season that culminated with a appearance in the National Championship game. He’s a productive and athletic defender with quick feet and keen instincts who’s always around the football. Smith’s sideline-to sideline playmaking skills earned him high marks in evaluator’s eyes, as he routinely sheds the trash and locates the ball.

Undersized by traditional NFL standards, Smith fits the mold of the modern NFL linebacker by mixing speed, footwork, and high football intelligence to make up for his lack of natural bulk. He rates as one of the better coverage linebackers to come out in some time, demonstrating an ability to run and mirror tight ends and backs.

In 2017, Smith registered 137 tackles (85 solo), including 6.5 sacks and 14 tackles for loss.  Despite the lack of a dominating frame, he’s an explosive tackler, capable of delivering a punishing hit. A consensus All-American, Smith was named one of four permanent team captains, as well as Defensive MVP, at the team’s post-season awards gala.

Among his numerous awards, he was named Butkus Award winner as the nation’s top linebacker and was a finalist for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy and Chuck Bednarik Award, both of which go to the country’s top overall defensive player.  Smith’s impressive junior campaign was highlighted by post-season honors , including the Defensive MVP of the Rose Bowl Game (with 11 tackles, including half a QB sack and highlighted by several key third-down stops) and MVP of the SEC Championship Game after he had a career high-matching 13 tackles, one QB sack, another stop for lost yardage, and a pair of fumble recoveries.

With the Bears, Smith appears to be destined to tag team with veteran Danny Trevathan to man the inside of Chicago’s 3-4. He’ll also line up next to a former college teammate, OLB Leonard Floyd.

Paw Prints: The draft continues with the second and third rounds on Friday, then concludes Saturday with rounds four-seven….The Bears have a second-round pick, but currently, no third-round choice following last year’s trade up with San Francisco to acquire Mitch Trubisky.

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