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2018 NFL draft Scouting Report: Roquan Smith is a tackling machine

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Among the potential top ten picks in this draft is this elite middle linebacker prospect.

NCAA Football: Missouri at Georgia Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia

Measurables

6’1”, 236 lbs

40-yd Dash: 4.51 seconds

Stats

2017: 137 Tackles, 14 Tackles for Loss, 6.5 Sacks, and 1 Forced Fumble

2016: 95 Tackles, 5 Tackles for Loss, 0 Sacks, and 2 Forced Fumbles

2015: 11 Tackles, 0.5 Tackles for Loss, 0 Sacks, and 0 Forced Fumbles

Awards

2017 Associated Press All-America First Team

2017 Butkus Award Winner

2017 AP SEC Defensive Player of the Year

2017 Coaches’ SEC Defensive Player of the Year

2017 Coaches’ & AP All-SEC 1st Team

Strengths

Roquan Smith’s instincts and speed are what separates him from the rest of this linebacker class. He added 11 pounds from his playing weight (225 lbs) for the NFL Combine and still showcased his agility with a 4.51 40-yard dash.

The Georgia linebacker is the definition of a sideline to sideline defender and his range makes him perfect for today’s NFL which requires linebackers to excel in space. Smith’s combination of speed and change of direction make him a dominant defensive force. He displays great tackling form and aggression as well as the ability to deliver the big hit. With 6.5 sacks and 18 pressures recorded this past season, he showed the ability to be an effective pass rusher. Smith has the athleticism and instincts to be a very good linebacker in coverage as well.

Weaknesses

The two common weaknesses associated with Smith are his size and ability to shed blocks. Though both may be overblown. The 2017 Butkus Award winner has a comparable frame to San Francisco 49er’s linebacker Rueben Foster (6’0”, 229 lbs) who has already established himself as one of the premier talents at the position. Smith’s size shouldn’t be an issue in the NFL and concerns that he is “too small” are laughable.

Foster also struggled with block shedding coming out of Alabama, but it hasn’t mattered because he is quick enough to avoid blocks altogether. Smith plays with a similar style and uses his agility to get around offensive lineman. While his block shedding could be improved, it is not nearly as drastic a weakness as popular perception suggests.

Verdict

Roquan Smith is hands down a top-five talent in the 2018 NFL Draft. His combination of physicality, range, and instincts make him one of my favorite prospects to watch. Jaylon Smith (pre-injury) and Rueben Foster are the best inside linebackers I’ve scouted, Roquan Smith is right behind them. He will make an immediate impact wherever he ends up and is an asset for any defense due to his talent on the field and unquestioned leadership.

With All-Pro potential, Smith should be the first linebacker to come off the draft board.

Pro Comparison

Rueben Foster

Fit with Raiders

If NaVorro Bowman doesn’t return, either Smith or a defensive tackle need to be the pick at 10 overall. Even if Bowman is retained, pairing the Georgia linebacker with Bowman’s veteran presence would be a great idea similar to how the San Francisco 49ers had the NFL’s best linebacker tandem with Bowman and Patrick Willis. It is exciting to imagine the player Smith could become under Bowman’s tutelage.

The Raiders are searching for a player to immediately improve their defense. For what they need look no further than Athens, Georgia.