The Case for Roquan Smith at 8

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 02: Roquan Smith
ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 02: Roquan Smith /

If the Chicago Bears decide to draft an inside linebacker with the eighth pick, could it be Georgia LB Roquan Smith?

The Chicago Bears are in an interesting position with the eighth overall pick. You could argue that they are the pick that is the key domino that will dictate the rest of the first round of the draft. It seems likely that the top seven picks are going to be the four quarterbacks, Quenton Nelson, Bradley Chubb and Saquon Barkley. It seems after those seven, it’s anybody’s guess what will happen at number eight.

The Bears will potentially be in a position to trade down if someone really covets Denzel Ward, but if the Bears stick at this spot, what do they do? There have been some rumors that the Bears also like Ward, but after investing in Kyle Fuller and Prince Amukamara, as well as having Bryce Callahan sign his RFA tender, will they spend their top pick on another corner? Especially when you consider that Vic Fangio’s defense doesn’t usually rely on high-priced corners.

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There aren’t really any offensive players that should garner attention at number eight after Barkley and Nelson. There are some safeties that have high grades such as Minkah Fitzpatrick and Derwin James (although Fitzpatrick is versatile enough to play all over the field) but with Adrian Amos and Eddie Jackson does that make much sense?

The Bears could use more help up front on defense but eight is too early for DL Vita Vea. There are some intriguing edge prospects, but for this conversation, let’s focus on inside linebacker. It’s a position where the Bears don’t have a lot of depth. They have two starting caliber backers with Danny Trevathan and Nick Kwiatkoski but very little is behind them right now. If Kwiatkoski became the team’s ILB3, suddenly it becomes a position of strength. To make that happen, that means the Bears would have to make a move at 8 for Tremaine Edmunds or Roquan Smith. If that’s Ryan Pace’s decision, Smith is the move to make.

Smith is one of those guys that analysts like to label, “He’s a football player.” When you watch his tape, you see the type of guy that can dominate from the inside backer position. He has tremendous speed, he was the leader of the defense at the University of Georgia, he can shed a block as good as anybody in this draft and he has tremendous instincts at the position and plays with a lot of discipline. Because of the fact that he has a lot of speed, he has the ability to cover athletic receivers and running backs in pass coverage. Bottom line, he’s a coach’s dream.

At this point, it seems like Smith is the perfect selection for the Bears? But there is a definite reason for concern: strength. Smith is not the strongest guy in the world and there is plenty of worry that he could get eaten up as an inside linebacker at the NFL level. The obvious answer is that he needs to add strength and while playing at the NFL level is going to certainly make that happen, there is a question that with his frame (he’s a former wide receiver) he won’t be able to add the size he needs to excel at the position.

There are no perfect prospects. Edmunds may have the size and speed for the position, but he seems to be just a crazy athlete without a lot of football instincts and actual ability. While Pace loves the raw athlete, in this case, a player with the skill and ability of Smith should be the pick. There can definitely be a case made that the Bears should go with an edge pass rusher because it’s probably the most glaring need on the roster, but the Bears also could use a great playmaker at linebacker. Fangio’s defense needs that type of player (Patrick Willis, Navorro Bowman) and Smith may be the perfect guy the fill that role.