2018 NFL Draft: Taking a Closer Look at Linebacker Roquan Smith

As the NFL Draft steady approaches, Niners Live takes a closer look at linebacker Roquan Smith from Georgia; will he be there when the 49ers are on the clock with the ninth overall pick (assuming the 49ers don’t trade down)?

 

Why are we here?

San Francisco 49ers’ promising young linebacker, Reuben Foster, was recently charged with felony domestic abuse by the Santa Clara DA’s office. Foster is expected to serve his much-anticipated suspension for violating the NFL’s code of conduct policy and his roster spot is in jeopardy. 

Looking at Smith’s career production

Smith, the Dick Butkus Award Winner, is a 6′ 1″, 236-pound linebacker with 32′ arms, who ran his 40-yard dash at the NFL combine in 4.51 seconds; second fastest at the combine for linebackers. So yes, he’s fast and very athletic. Smith, while playing at Georgia the last three years, totaled 252 tackles, 20.5 tackles for a loss (14 tied for third most in the SEC in 2017), 6.5 sacks (all coming in 2017), three passes defended and three forced fumbles, according to Sports-Reference.com).

Taking a closer look at linebacker Roquan Smith

Smith is a bonafide leader on the field and in the locker room; he’s the alpha and the omega. He can cover with the best of them, has a high football I.Q., and is a no-nonsense tackler who is physical at the point of attack.

He uses his speed at times to avoid being gobbled up by massive offensive linemen, has some pass rush ability and he’s explosive with fluid hips. He can get sideline-to-sideline at the drop of a dime.

Smith played middle linebacker while at Georgia, but his natural position seems to be at weak side linebacker; aka, the “Will” position. While he’s a bit undersized, Smith is an intriguing prospect that could replace Foster if his days are numbered in Santa Clara.

ESPN analyst Louis Riddick, a former NFL player and front-office executive, is in love with Smith. But will he be there at No. 9? According to ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay, Smith’s stock is rising.

Bottom Line:

If you wanted to move on from Foster, who would you draft? Roquan Smith. Why? Two is company and three’s a crowd. Smith is a natural weak side linebacker, who is more than capable of playing middle linebacker at a high level obviously.

The 49ers also have last year’s free agent acquisition (another weak side linebacker) in Malcolm Smith, who signed a five-year, $26.5 million contract with San Francisco (including $12 million guaranteed and a $7 million signing bonus).

Neither Foster, Malcolm Smith, nor Roquan Smith are ideal fits to play the “Sam” position based on size, body type, etc. However, both Smiths could co-exist on the field together, if you were to move on from Foster.

Based on Malcolm Smith’s knowledge of 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh’s defense, and his speed and athleticism, my guestimation is he would move to the middle linebacker position (which he’s played before), while Roquan Smith would occupy the weak side.

But is Smith the right pick over the 49ers’ true No. 1 need of an elite level prospect that’s a pure pass-rusher? Like a Harold Landry, for an example. These are the questions in play. No pass-rusher, “no rings.” To be continued. 

Please join us again soon on Niners Live, the home of the faithful fan and analyst from an objective/analytical lens, of course. Often imitated, but never duplicated.

All records, statistics, and accolades are courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.comPro Football Focus49ers.comESPN.comNFL.com unless otherwise indicated. Author, Content Creator, player break down specialist, Co-Editor, Sequoia Sims