The class of this year’s linebacker crop, Georgia’s Roquan Smith is a talented and athletic linebacker who perfectly fits the mold of the modern NFL. Like Atlanta’s Deion Jones, Smith has the talent to be a matchup weapon on defense when it comes to coverage and has the speed and athleticism to make plays sideline to sideline, neutralizing some of the game’s most effective offensive weapons. There will be people that nitpick his game, but his PFF grades have been excellent and he had 74 defensive stops in 2017, the second-most among all linebackers. His coverage skills can be something special at the next level, he is the best linebacker in this class and should be taken high in the first round.
STRENGTHS Former high school wideout with elite athletic ability. Speed demon who walks down backs looking to race him to the corner. Fluid and explosive in space. Block-slipper. Praised by his head coach as being a “tremendous leader” who holds himself accountable. Has instincts and football intelligence. Laser-sharp focus to finds the football when sifting through zone reads and jet sweeps. Plays with discipline. Senses when running backs are prepping for screen and fires downhill to stop it. Face-up tackler who sticks his nose in noise. Rare stop-start and change of direction talent. Flips pursuit from one target to the next seamlessly. Gets early bail into coverage against play-fake. Able to mirror and match against the most athletic running backs in coverage. Gets early jumps to join crossing routes and has the speed to carry them across the field. Searches out and squeezes receivers when playing zone.
WEAKNESSES Is a little undersized. Has to stay one step ahead of the blocking scheme or he can be engulfed by size. Will need to diagnose and trigger just a hair faster on the next level. Occasionally comes in hot rather than breaking down in space as a tackler. Will need more schooling on hand work when taking on blocks. Needs to do a better job of recognizing oncoming blocker in his periphery. Gets touched up by second level traffic and needs to continue to improve finding more efficient routes to the ball.