Roquan Smith was named as 1 of 5 finalists for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, given to the best defensive player in college football. Smith is up for the award with the likes of All-American corner Minkah Fitzpatrick and All-American defensive tackle Ed Oliver. Smith has not received enough credit for his elite defensive play but this recognition with being a finalist for the Nagurski Trophy goes a long way to help his resume.
With the recent struggles of Kiko Alonso, which is no surprise because teams finally realized he can’t cover, the Dolphins need to offload the salary and replace him. It doesn’t hurt Smith’s case that Raekwon McMillan, the Dolphins 2nd Round pick from Ohio State in 2016 who tore his ACL in the preseason, advocated for the Georgia linebacker in a tweet saying: “That boy
@RoquanSmith1 a ball player!! Need him beside me.” Will the Dolphins future at MLB and defensive play-caller be able to get Miami to draft his dream teammate? Well, he is a rookie who hasn’t played. He may not have the pull but when the Dolphins evaluate Roquan Smith, this is what they will most likely see.
- Speedy, great range in all facets of the game. Roquan Smith is fast. Smith can beat blockers that are kicking out on run plays and he can stay with tight ends and running backs. According to Pro Football Focus, Smith allowed just 0.40 yards per coverage snap last season, ranking No. 15 in the 2018 NFL draft class. Smith’s elite speed at the linebacker position allows him to shoot gaps, on runs or on blitzes, and be a good coverage linebacker on 3rd downs, where the Dolphins opposition convert 40.4% pf the time. (ESPN) That is good for 20th in the NFL. Miami must improve on that conversion rate if they want to become an elite NFL defensive unit.
- Quick, Gritty, and Decent Hands. Smith’s good hand eye coordination and good strength at the linebacker position allow him to blow up plays in the backfields when disengaging from blockers. He can also make plays on the ball, whether that be a pass deflection or interception. Smith, even when engaging on linemen, can disengage using the quickness and his ability to effectively shuffle across the line until he finds the gap to shoot.
- Hard Hitter. Smith is a hard hitter. Not just when it comes to hitting ball carriers but when it comes to striking blockers down and getting an effective jump off the ball. This isn’t a memorable trait for linebackers when on the line but when in the open, it creates a superstar. 2016 was Smith’s breakout year as he achieved an 86.0 run defense grade, which was ranked No. 1 and his 84.7 coverage grade ranked No. 3 among returning SEC linebackers. His overall grade for the year was 87.4, 1st for returning SEC linebackers.
- Great Leader. After breaking into the starting lineup in 2016, Smith took the keys and ran with it. He became the quarterback of the defense and took the job in stride. He spent time over the summer to learn the defense’s in and outs. As Kirby Smart walked into year 2 of his Georgia tenure and addressed the media during the first day of preseason camp in August, Smart said that Smith was “really special.” Smith lead the Dawgs in tackles last year despite not starting the first 3 games, and this year he has sent his draft stock through the roof.
- Vision and Speed at times hinder his ability to get to the ball and make plays. Smith is an athletic freak who can cover the whole field but his speed can sometimes hurt him. When crashing the line, teams will run misdirection or counter runs or play action plays to get Smith to overcommit to completely take him out of a play. This is not a terrible attribute to have in college but in the NFL it can seriously affect the outcome of a play. Overcommitting can seriously hurt the defensive unit with running backs such as Le’Veon Bell, who has such patience to find the most effective gap possible. Smith’s top of the class athleticism will do him well in the NFL but it may prove to be the only weakness I find hinders his game severely.
NFL COMPARISON: Shaq Thompson
- Now, you may be thinking Shaq Thompson is a speed linebacker who can line up at corner but lacks the pure strength to be a pass rusher. Furthermore, Thompson’s refined vision allows him to cover sideline to sideline and this is where you think they sound like the same player. However, Smith possesses strength to rush the passer but does not contain the refined vision. Overall, Smith is a more powerful, more raw talent than Shaq Thompson but needs to improve his vision and patience to become a top tier linebacker in the NFL.
PROJECTIONS (As of Week 11 Draft Order) :
- Round 1, Pick 16 (Miami Dolphins)
- Round 1, Pick 17 (Dallas Cowboys)
- Round 1, Pick 21 (Buffalo Bills)