With the No. 8 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft the Chicago Bears selected Georgia’s Roquan Smith and the organization couldn’t be happier.
Shortly after the first night of the NFL Draft concluded, general manager Ryan Pace addressed the media and was full of excitement.
“We’re fired up,” Pace said. “We’re fired up about this. The whole draft room is excited. The whole building is excited.”
As they should be.
Now the Bears have what they hope to be the future leader of the Bears’ defense and it’s only fitting that it be a linebacker.
Just like the great Brian Urlacher, Mike Singletary, Dick Butkus and Bill George before him, Smith is now in line to continue the fabled legacy of Bears’ linebackers and lead by example.
At Georgia, Smith was renowned for his leadership and that is exactly what the Bears want him to bring to Chicago.
Pace was asked how important Smith’s leadership qualities were and how that manifested in his game.
“It’s big, you know especially at that position,” Pace said. “We’re talking about a position that can quarterback the defense.”
As the quarterback of the Bulldogs’ defense his junior year, Smith accumulated 113 total tackles (10.5 for loss), 5.5 sacks, two passes defended, two fumble recoveries and one forced fumble. He was also the Butkus Award winner, SEC Defensive Player of the Year and named MVP of the SEC Championship Game against Auburn.
There is no question that Smith was a productive player in college, but now he will be tasked with his next biggest challenge — learning the intricacies of playing inside linebacker for Vic Fangio’s defense — which is no easy task.
In a recent Q&A with the Athletic’s writers Kevin Fishbain and Dan Durkin, I asked them in terms of the learning curve with inside linebacker, edge rusher and safety, is there one that happens more fluidly than the others?
Fishbain replied with, “In Vic’s defense, ILB has a lot of responsibilities, so that would probably be #1[toughest].”
Smith has a tall order in front of him, but will have some quality veterans mixed with young teammates to guide him. There is no player more important to Smith’s progression than fellow inside linebacker Danny Trevathan.
The two will be manning the middle of the Bears’ defense and will need to rely on each other often, which will undoubtedly cause growing pains at first with the two linebackers. But with Trevathan now going into his third year in Fangio’s defense, Smith will benefit from all the knowledge he will obtain from his new teammate.
Another teammate who will ease Smith into the defense is former Bulldog Leonard Floyd. The two were teammates in 2016 when Floyd was a junior and Smith was a freshman. Having a familiar face alongside Smith will help him learn the position quickly and allow him to play the only way he knows how — fast.
“Just every game you watch he is just so explosive,” Pace said in regards to what stands out about Smith. “Every game you watch this guy is flying around, making plays.”
Although Smith may the newest addition to this Bears’ team, his teammates will need him to fly around, make plays and more importantly, become the lead dog of the defense if they want to be a top defensive unit in 2018.