Where Chicago Bears LB Roquan Smith ranks amongst NFL linebackers

Chicago Bears (Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images)
Chicago Bears (Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images) /

Roquan Smith has been viewed as one of the best linebackers in the NFL. Still, the Chicago Bears’ struggles have left him a bit under the radar even though he was a former top-ten pick. It is fair that while Smith has been playing elite football for the past two years he may not be widely viewed as the best linebacker in all of football.

Still, last season in most scenarios it is hard to find anyone arguing that the top six linebackers were De’Vondre Campbell, Demario Davis, Darius Leonard, Micah Parsons, Fred Warner, and then Smith. How he ranks within that tier is where the debate comes from.

When looking at the statistical profile of Roquan Smith is it fair to include him with these five names, and how do they all stack up?

Roquan Smith statistical value

Below you can see how the group compared against each other last season. It is a bit unfair to go any further back because Parsons is already an elite linebacker after just his rookie year.

Totals Table
1De’Vondre Campbell10244662.02120
2Demario Davis703510133.00000
3Darius Leonard7547340.08340
4Micah Parsons6420302013.03000
5Roquan Smith95684123.00011
6Fred Warner7958370.51300

De’Vondre Campbell posted the most solo tackles, but Smith has the most combined tackles, with the most assists by a good margin. He has 10 more than Fred Warner, who was second in assisted tackles. Parsons is clearly sixth in tackles, but you can see where he makes it up when you get to hits, tackles for loss, and sacks.

It is hard to even include Parsons who is playing a different game than these other players, but he is a linebacker.

Demario Davis was fifth in tackles, but second in hits, sacks, and tackles for loss. It shows even Davis was used a bit more as an attacker than someone who would make sure things do not spill into the secondary.

Still, despite being second in solos, and first in assists, he is just one tackle for loss below Davis, and they have the same number of sacks, although Davis does have seven more hits. Still, being third in tackles for loss shows that Smith is not just accumulating tackles because his line was poor.

Darius Leonard was last in sacks and tackles for loss and tied with Warner for the least hits on the quarterback. His role was much more about accumulating stops to prevent big plays.

Advanced Stats Comparison

The raw data can help tell us the story of these players, but the advanced stats can add a second layer. Below are yards per target, adjusted yards per attempt allowed, pass rush win rate, and run stop rate.

The yards per target show how reliable the player was in coverage, and adjusted yards per attempt adds interceptions and big plays into the mix. Pass rush win rate looks at how good they were on a snap-in and snap-out basis, while the same can be said for run stop rate.

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Darius Leonard is the worst in coverage, but Smith is not far behind. In this area, Demario Davis excels. Fred Warner is good at now allowing yards but was not a playmaker in coverage this year.

De’Vondre Campbell made a name for himself by being that playmaker in coverage, and he is right near Davis in AYA.

Smith is fifth and fourth in the top coverage stats. As a pass rusher, he also had the fourth-best win rate. Parsons was obviously a stud, but Leonard was efficient in this area despite not being used in this area. Davis was pass rushing often and was not as effective on a snap-by-snap basis.

Lastly, we see that Smith is second in run stop rate, behind only Parsons. Campbell, who made plays in coverage, was not a great run defender. On the flip side, this is where Leonard is at his best, and he saw plenty more chances than someone such as Parsons.

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It is hard to find an overall ranking. Smith was better than Warner last year, but Warner had been better than Smith previously. Parsons and Leonard practically play different positions. Even De’Vondre Campbell came out of nowhere to be a top-six option.

Either way, one thing that is clear is that Roquan Smith belongs within these names as the top linebackers in the NFL.