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Raiders 2018 Draft Pick or Pass: LB Roquan Smith

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With linebacker as one of the Raiders needs on defense, should Reggie McKenzie select the 2017 Butkus Award winner with the 10th overall pick?

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NCAA Football: Rose Bowl-Oklahoma vs Georgia Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

One of the players often mocked to the Raiders in the 2018 NFL Draft is Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith. The Silver and Black entered the off-season looking to improve the position and are working to re-sign NaVorro Bowman. They also brought in free agent Tarik Whitehead to play outside linebacker on a three-year contract.

Even if Reggie McKenzie and Jon Gruden convince Bowman to stay in Oakland, it is definitely a possibility that they would consider Smith in the first round. Pairing him with a veteran would be similar to when the San Francisco 49ers initially drafted Bowman after already having a Pro Bowl linebacker in Patrick Willis.

What would the staff here at Silver and Black Pride do if they were drafting for the Raiders at 10 overall? Would they pick Roquan Smith, or pass on him to address another need?

Tyler Green (@TylerGreenSB)

As I noted in an in-depth scouting report of Smith, he is hands down a top-five talent in this draft class. In a league that has become pass heavy, linebackers must have sideline to sideline range to cover running backs that are receiving threats out of the backfield.

Smith is the definition of this as his closing speed, instincts, and physicality make him a perfect fit for the new breed of linebackers we are seeing in the NFL. Regardless of what the Raiders decide to do with NaVorro Bowman, they should absolutely consider the Georgia defensive star with their first round pick as he would be a tremendous asset for Paul Guenther and the defense.

Verdict: PICK

RDreamer (@RaiderDamus)

If there’s one guy in this draft that I think could bring the Raider defense to the next level, it’s Roquan Smith. The Raiders certainly need an influx of talent at defensive tackle and cornerback, but we all saw last year how much better the Raider defense was with Navorro Bowman than without him. That’s the difference between having a competent middle linebacker and not having one, as the Raiders haven’t since the days of Kirk Morrison.

Whether the Raiders bring back Bowman or not, Roquan can be that guy. He can be the linchpin of the defense, the signal caller that brings everything together. He has the size, the ferocity, the instincts and the speed. Watch his tape vs. Oklahoma in the national semifinal. Smith was all over the field, running sideline to sideline, tracking down backs and receivers who by all rights should be faster than him, but they weren’t. Smith was the best player in that game. He took the Georgia defense to new heights and made it a fearsome unit.

The Raiders, probably smartly, passed on another top middle linebacker prospect last year in Reuben Foster. They should not pass on Smith. There just aren’t many players of his caliber at his position.

Verdict: PICK

BD Williams (@BDWilliams18)

While picking Inside Linebacker at 10 might not seem like great value, there is a substantial drop off in talent after the top 3 or 4 linebackers in this draft. Roquan is the most pro-ready and should be able to start Day 1 in any scheme. His athleticism is rare for the position and its obvious when watching his tape and you see him making plays all over the field. Perhaps even more important however is Roquan’s ability to trust his keys and diagnose even the trickiest RPO and Option offenses that are taking over today’s college game. Lastly Roquan is lauded by teammates and coaches for being a model citizen and for his leadership skills. Just about as clean a prospect as you’re gonna find, he’s the type of player to make a GM look like a genius for taking high.

Verdict: PICK

Ryan Lipton (@Rytime98)

Almost every great defense has a dominant middle linebacker to lead the way. The Baltimore Ravens had Ray Lewis, the Seattle Seahawks have Bobby Wagner and the Harbaugh led 49ers had Patrick Willis and Bowman.

It is not to say that Smith will automatically be in their class, but Oakland won’t find a dominant force in the middle of the defense by using fifth or sixth round selections.

On the field, Smith possesses the necessary athleticism to be impactful in today’s game and would immediately help the Raiders in coverage, especially against tight ends. And despite his smaller frame, Smith is still an adept tackler as he missed just two tackles during his last season at Georgia.

It’s time for McKenzie to stop hoping that late-round selections at the linebacker position will suddenly fix a decade-long need. Just take what seems to be a sure-fire pick in Smith at No. 10 and eliminate the need for the foreseeable future.

Verdict: PICK

Levi Damien (@LeviDamien)

Every draft there seems to be a player that becomes an incredibly tough call for me. Roquan Smith is that player this draft. His abilities are undeniable. The words ‘sideline to sideline’ get thrown around a lot, but they hold true with him. He takes perfect angles, has incredible closing speed, and his instincts are second to none.

Here is where I struggle: I’m not sure he’s a middle linebacker. Not only that, I think the Raiders best course of action at MLB is to re-sign NaVorro Bowman.

Is that a major issue? Maybe, maybe not. I think he can be an elite weak side linebacker at the next level. Which leads to the question of whether that’s what the Raiders need. And if so, is it something they need more than other positions on the defense? In this draft, every mock scenario I come to always leads to someone else available at the 10 spot I like better for the Raiders. With what looks to be four quarterbacks taken ahead of them, there are going to some amazing players on the board when they pick.

So, while he is a great player who would be a great pick (perhaps with a trade down?), and if they made the pick, I wouldn’t trash it, I gotta go...

Verdict: PASS


Should the Raiders draft Roquan Smith?

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