Roquan Smith- a Monster in the Middle

When the Chicago Bears decided to draft linebacker Roquan Smith with the eighth overall pick in the 2018 NFL draft, they put their defense one step closer to be one of the league’s best. Come draft day, plenty of Bears fans knew that if the Georgia Bulldog was available, he would be wearing blue and orange by the end of the night.

Other than defensive end Bradley Chubb and offensive lineman Quentin Nelson, Smith was rated as one of the safest picks in last year’s draft. This comes as no surprise when examining his collegiate dominance.

Smith was named the MVP of the SEC championship game in 2017 as well as SEC Defensive Player of the Year by the Associated Press. He also became the first Bulldog in Georgia history to win the Butkus Award, given to the nation’s best linebacker.

When it came to signing his rookie contract, Smith gave Bears fans quite a bit of anxiety. Smith decided to holdout on signing his contract due to language that would not guarantee money to Smith if he were to be suspended for violating the NFL’s new rule of contact leading with the helmet. 

Disappointment among Bears fans quickly spread as they felt as if their new linebacker was being “greedy” or “selfish”. Something that a lot of Bears fan did not realize, Smith has been meticulous on when and how he signs any documentation dating back to before his college career.

During 2015’s National Signing Day, Smith committed to UCLA by putting on the Bruins hat much like other recruits. However, unlike many others, Smith deliberately did not sign his letter of intent, therefore allowing him to hold onto all of his recruiting rights. 

This allowed Smith to back out of his verbal commitment to UCLA due to coaching changes that were made. He then decided to stay in the state of Georgia and commit to being a Bulldog.

What this shows is that Roquan has always been methodical when it comes to making career decisions. A young player that can make decisions based off the future and not just the now, is exactly the type of player you want to draft and build into your team’s defensive leader. Smith’s maturity at such a young age shows his ability to be a leader of the Chicago Bears defense in the near future.    

Smith’s rookie campaign started off slow, but he was able to turn a corner and end on a strong note. The rookie linebacker tied for fourth among all rookies in tackles with 121 tackles. His five sacks on the season left him tied for fifth among rookies. All while adding six passes defended and one interception. 

Smith’s development and progress into the 2019 season is something to keep an eye on. If Smith can show consistency and elevate his play in his sophomore year, then the sky’s the limit for this young monster. 

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