Chicago Bears 2018 NFL Draft: Roquan Smith vs. Tremaine Edmunds

SHREVEPORT, LA - DECEMBER 26: Conner Floyd /

The Chicago Bears will likely have the tough decision of deciding between Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith and Virginia Tech linebacker Tremaine Edmunds. Which one should be their linebacker one?

While the Chicago Bears could pass on linebacker altogether in the first round, they will likely have their pick of the top backer in the draft at their eighth overall selection. While Edmunds and Smith bring different bodies to the table, they bring similar characteristics and are a tough duo to decipher in draft rankings. When looking at qualities and traits that could translate to the NFL, which of the two would be a better fit for the Chicago Bears?


While Roquan Smith did not complete a full athletic test at the combine, but his Pro day numbers combined with his combine put him at an above average athlete. He tested in the 68th percentile in weight-adjusted athleticism. Still, it came away as a concern that Smith did not test as some believe he has lingering hamstring issues. Edmunds has a clean bill of health to note. It also has to be worth noting that Edmunds overall athletic profile places him in the 69th percentile.

While it should not make a huge difference between these two, one of the variables around Tremaine Edmunds is that he is the youngest player in the draft. Edmunds will be 19 when he is drafted and play as a rookie at age 20. This gives him an advantage over some, as he is clearly not even close to his physical peak. However, Roquan Smith is only 11 months older. There is not a huge difference in their physical and mental development.

One of the best notes about both prospects is that neither has an off of the field record to detract from their play. Edmunds is a son of a former Pro Bowl tight end and Smith was a team captain at Georgia with a trophy case full of awards.

Smith has a slight edge in statistics, but overall, the better bet on paper is likely going to be Tremaine Edmunds. Does the tape agree? We will weight Smith vs. Edmunds in terms of pass rush, coverage, instincts, speed, and power.

Pass Rush

Many tend to push Edmunds ahead of Smith due to his pass-rushing prowess. As shown in their athletic profiles, Edmunds is much bigger. In fact, he is closer to Leonard Floyd in size than Danny Trevathan. However, while Edmunds did play on the edge some, and has the size of an edge defender, he is a pure linebacker. His pass rush is not one of his better traits.

Lined up on the edge, you can see the bend,  athleticism and the speed on full display. However, the play below is more of a rare occurrence and most of his sacks came from blitzing up the middle.

Edmunds is a complete project on the edge and does not use his hands, or know when to leverage his speed into power around the edge. Tight ends are able to flatten his route around the edge, as he rushes from the right side.

A running back coming out of the backfield, 1, is able to pick up the free rushing Edmunds off of the edge.

And while you could call this a double team, a tight end chips and a running back helps stuff Edmunds around the edge. If you are drafting him over Roquan Smith because of what he provides on the edge, you may be disappointed.

However, while Roquan Smith is certainly too small to live off of the edge, his ability to blitz from all over the field makes him a more dynamic pass rusher at this point in time compared to Edmunds.Watch the knack for finding the football below as he blitzes off of the edge. He dips around the tackle, and plants to change his pursuit straight to the football.

Roquan Smith is a savage when he knows he has a chance at the football. Running backs and tight ends are not going to slow him down and he is going to harass the quarterback.

While many project Edmunds as the more versatile pass rusher, Smith’s 6.5 sacks last season would be the most of either.  His ferocity, handwork and path to the football make him the better pass rushing threat.

Coverage and Fluidity in space

One of the other reasons in which you do not want to try to develop Edmunds to the edge and instead keep him off of the ball in space is his fluidity and understanding in coverage.

Edmunds is fluid in his movements and is able to change directions on a dime. That is important against the run and the pass.

Edmunds’ light feet and loose hips help him in man coverage. He is able to plant and pounce on the ball. Look at his length as he is able to flow with a running back breaking out the backfield. The running back makes a clean break and Edmunds is moving so fluidly with enough length that he has completely caught up and is right on top of his opposition out of his break. Edmunds outside hand is on the receivers outside arm.

His speed to get to the sideline, and fluid hips to turn and run with backs makes him a threat to defend not only tight ends but quick backs and slot receivers with ease.

Watch the hips as he is able to juke through traffic and avoid the crossing route. Edmunds is a heady player in coverage, and combined with his length and athleticism makes him a dangerous option in space.

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In zone and in man, he is not going to let crossing routes phase him. Watch as he passes off the tight end running right to left to pick up the slot man coming into his zone. The fluid hips and length help him shut down both routes.

Related Story: Tremaine Edmunds draft profile

And Edmunds is quick to close and break on passes. This shows great recognition as he is moving towards the slant route before the ball was even thrown.

This is not to say that Roquan Smith is not strong in coverage either. In fact, e is an even more instinctive threat than Edmunds at this point and tends to move with similar fluidity in space. Watch the hips and understanding below. He sees the running back slip out of the backfield as a passing threat, not a blocker. Smith is able to quickly change his path and shut down the route.

Like Edmunds, crossing routes are not going to be an issue as he recognizes and is out of the way before the receiver even got to him. The closing speed to make the perfect tackle in front of the stick is icing on the cake.

He can defend all of the slot receivers and is able to change direction and stop on a  dime. Watch as he drops into coverage from showing blitz. He is able to force the slot receiver inside, and as he tries to juke around him, Smith is a step ahead, shutting down the route.

Smith did give up a decent completion percentage. However, he was taught to keep plays in front of him and Smith has the tremendous closing speed to shut down any chances of yards after the catch.

It will sound crazy to many but while Roquan Smith is a better pass rushing threat, it can be argued Edmunds has more upside in coverage. Smith has the understanding and quick reaction down. However, he does not have that length to recover in the same way as Edmunds. Smith stands almost four full inches shorter. While we know Smith is smart and quick enough to hang with running backs, and slot receivers, big tight ends will be an issue.

We know Edmunds has the size to matchup with big targets, and as shown is also quick enough to get to the sideline and turn upfield with quick targets. The upside and flexibility in coverage give Edmunds the edge.


The one claim to move Edmunds to the edge would be his instincts when it comes to diagnosing the run. It is fair that these are some true criticisms of Edmunds and his game. However, his run diagnoses from the second level is still more refined than his pass rush.

On top of that, this is an area in which Edmunds has shown growth and an athletic ability to overcome.

The following three plays are from 2016. Given Edmunds issues with run diagnoses, Georgia Tech was ugly tape. The motion across the line of scrimmage gets Edmunds moving the wrong way. The run goes to his side, he is well out of position and a small block takes him out of a huge play.

Again, the motion to the outside has Edmunds flowing outside.  The run up the middle comes straight to where he should have been, but he was having trouble diagnosing the play.

In 2016, his athletic ability was able to make up for it at times. Still, this is a play Edmunds can and should blow up in the backfield if he wants to be a top ten pick. Slow diagnoses gives the back a couple of yards.

However, in 2017, Edmunds has grown as a processor. You can see on the play below that he is patient, but light on his feet as he diagnoses. The motion does not throw him off, and when he finally gets his chance, he explodes and uses his athleticism to blow the play up in the backfield. The growth shown from year to year provides a lot of optimism in the NFL.


If there were one area where Edmunds must make the leap in 2017 to 2018, it would be his understanding of angles. Edmunds again has a chance to blow a play up in the backfield. However, he shoots in too far to the inside and ends up missing the play completely.

The fact of the matter is that while Edmunds has the upside in athleticism, and coverage so far, Smith makes up a lot of ground in this category. Even given the growth and room for growth, Smith is coming in nearly a finished product. He establishes a base floor with these attributes. Watch the patience and understanding in the fourth quarter of an elimination game. He is light on his feet and able to force the run inside, then stonewall it from there. He dictated the play.

The instinctual play shows all over the tape of Roquan Smith. Smith sees the hole, ducks behind the line and explodes into the running back with nowhere to run.

Taking on blocks

Edmunds has deficiencies when it comes to taking on blocks and most of it has to do with his instincts and processing. In the play below he has his eyes in the backfield. However, he is not prepared for the lineman to step up when the quarterback draws. Edmunds is not prepared to fight himself clean.

Below Tremaine Edmunds overcommits downhill and gets caught in the garbage. He is unable to get clean and loses all leverage.

However, when he has leverage he is able to use his length and strength to shed free and hold up strong between the tackles.

Below is the perfect form of a linebacker prospect. He is low and in good position. He gets his arms out to spring off of the block and then accelerate into the hole with power to shut down the run.

Below is another play that should have scouts raving. The tackle comes out and is shrugged off by Edmunds. Edmunds is able to flip off Deon Cain as well and explode into the backfield.

Like his diagnoses, this is a position that is not complete. However, like his coverage, the upside is there, and when he can master shedding blocks and getting into the backfield properly the it is scary.

Still, at this point, this is another area where Smith makes the overall decision tougher. Smith is vicious and fast, and the combination makes him a deadly candidate when it comes to shedding blocks.

As shown below it is again knowledge and understanding to process quickly and flow to the football. Smith is able to speed through the guard, 75, at the second level. He is able to push off of 77, and completely swarm around the ball carrier to wrap him up around the ankles. He plays with a by any means attitude.

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Watch the power as he connects first, pushes hard, and shakes himself free to roam into the second level, where he just so happens to be in perfect position to pick up a fumble.

However, the reason this could be an advantage for Edmunds, like his coverage, is his upside compared to Smith. Smith excels now, but every once in a while his lack of power is going to get him blow off of the ball like 55 does when Smith gets a bit too close to the sun. Edmunds may have issues getting inside too deep, but he has the length and power where he may be able to overcome some situations in which Smith cannot. So while Smith is a better product, this is not the slam dunk win for Roquan Smith, and it could be argued this area favors Edmunds long term.

Sideline to sideline range

Sideline to sideline range goes hand in hand with shedding blocks. Anyone can be fast. Being fast with 20 other bodies around you while you chase down one person is hard. The fact of the matter is that these two excel in this area.

Edmunds stiff arms the blocker while shuffling with speed to close the gap and pounce on his opponent.

The combination of size, strength and closing speed on full display makes Edmunds one of the more lethal players in the NFL draft. Watch the ground he makes up when he turns it on.

James Washington is a great deep threat in college football but has no chance getting to the sideline against Edmunds.

Another play in which Edmunds is able to make the stuff in the backfield.

However, it is tough to argue that anybody is better than Roquan Smith in this area. What is so impressive about Smith is that while Edmunds grabs at ankles on some and uses the sideline, Smith is straight up beating his opponent to the edge. Kerryon Johnson has no chance getting to the edge against Roquan Smith. Smith is there so fast you would think he knew the play before the ball carrier.

A ton of pre-snap dressing is shown to throw off the defense. Elite instincts are on display as Smith stays disciplined, reads the back and is able to square him up with a punishing hit near the goal line.

Watch his hips as he is able to weave in and out of traffic like its

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Grand Theft Auto to finish the back with form tackling on the sideline.

Form tackling/ Power

As mentioned above, Smith is not just roaming sideline to sideline. He is finishing off players with form tackling. On third and two Smith is head up, shoulders square and dragging down his opponent short of the sticks.

However, it is not like Edmunds is a slouch in this area either. When he gets a chance to lay the punch with a strong tackle, he does it.

Edmunds can blow up third down runs in the backfield as well.

In fact, while Smith is likely a more overall form tackler, Edmunds power in the running game makes this category very close as well, if not in favor of Edmunds. We have seen Smith make plays short of the stick. Watch the two play sequence below. First and goal Edmunds gets under a blocker, and into the backfield for a stuff. On second down he is able to step back, shrug off a block and explode forward to force third and goal.

Smith can make up for a lot of his power with form tackling. However, the fact of the matter is that Edmunds is a stronger player. Smith can be swallowed by blockers easier and is not the same presence on the goal line.


These are two of the best players in this draft class. All negatives are nit-picky about their play to differentiate the two. In terms of off-field, athleticism and statistics, Edmunds has an edge. Smith is a better pass rusher, but the upside in Edmunds coverage washes those categories. Smith is better in terms of understanding and form tackling, but Edmunds has more upside in terms of shedding blocks and finishing with power.

It is a really tough call. At the end of the day Smith is likely better right here and now, but may have a peaked ceiling compared to Edmunds, who has shown unreal heights. Edmunds floor is lower than Smith but if Ryan Pace feels the ceiling is high enough, he is worth the swing. What do you think, which player would be the better fit at pick 8?