Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith is a man with bad intentions. The 2017 Butkus award winner is a top-five level draft talent that can change the culture of a defense. Former Baltimore Ravens college director of scouting Phil Savage agrees and even went as far as to compare him to Ravens Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis.
“This kid [Roquan Smith] is a reincarnation of Ray Lewis,” Savage said in an interview with Sirius XM. “He’s got passion, energy, burst, acceleration. He makes players around him better.”
Savage played a pivotal role in the Ravens decision to draft Lewis with the 26th overall pick in the 1996 NFL Draft. He would go on to become a two-time Super Bowl champion and was named to the Pro Bowl thirteen times.
Many consider Lewis as one of the greatest linebackers in NFL history, so these are strong words for Savage to make.
On the gridiron, the two linebackers were both relentless tacklers with excellent instincts. But Lewis played in a different era where bigger linebackers were prized. He had a bigger frame at 6’1”, 245 lbs. Lewis used his size as a weapon and he was excellent at shedding blocks to make tackles.
Smith on the other hand is the definition of a sideline to sideline defender and his range is perfect for today’s NFL which requires linebackers to excel in space. But while he is quicker than Lewis was, he is also smaller as well. Although Smith was measured at 6’1”, 236 lbs at the NFL Combine, he played at 225 lbs while at Georgia.
Lewis thrived when it came to block shedding, while Roquan Smith struggles in that area and can be overpowered. He gets around this issue with his speed and ability to quickly change direction as he avoids blockers rather than confronting them. Because of how effective he is at this style, he has the makings of a dominant linebacker in the NFL.
Lewis and Smith have similar traits, but play with different styles on the field. While I can understand how Smith’s relentlessness reminds Savage of the Ray Lewis years, I interpreted his comparison being directed more towards their leadership characteristics.
Savage mentioned the similar burst and acceleration both Lewis and Smith played with, but he primarily focused on their ability to make teammates better. Both players are born leaders of men, and their work ethic and passion make players want to run through a wall for them. Ray Lewis single-handedly changed the culture of the Baltimore defense, and Roquan Smith can have a similar impact on whichever team drafts him.
Interestingly enough, Smith has been the player most media outlets mock to the Raiders with the 10th overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. He would look great in Silver and Black and would give Oakland’s defense a much needed playmaker not named Mack or Irvin.