The University of Georgia held its pro day on March 21, and the headliner was a young player looking to become a top-10 draft pick and the first inside linebacker selected.
“I know what I can do. I’m confident in my abilities when I come out on the field,” Smith said. “I feel like I can come out and move well, do everything they’re asking, and look pretty good at it. At the end of the day if you’re confident in yourself, why worry? Why worry about it when you can do what it takes?”
After watching Smith in a workout that included Smith knocking down Detroit Lions defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni in a tackling drill, Atlanta Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff wasn’t inclined to argue.
“Roquan’s a heck of a football player,” Dimitroff said. “He’s very athletic, very explosive. You see him out there, his urgency stood out. Those are the type of the guys who will do very well in this league. He can drop, he’s got range. He’s a fun guy to watch.”
Per Lance Zierlein of NFL.com, an AFC personnel executive agrees that Smith’s a special talent, while allowing that he may have to slide outside in the pros. “Great player,” he said. “Really fun to watch because he can get to just about any play on the field and he’s only going to get better. You would love to play him inside, but he may have to slide to WILL.”
Smith, who piled up 137 tackles, 14 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks for the Bulldogs in 2017, showed up at February’s combine at 236 pounds—up a bit from his playing weight. Smith ran a relatively impressive 4.52-second 40 in Indy, but he also tweaked a hammy on the attempt—cutting his workout short.
That didn’t matter in the eyes of Zierlein, who is also sold on Smith’s prospects in the NFL. “Smith is an ascending linebacker prospect with elite athletic ability, plus intelligence and an ability to be an effective cover linebacker on passing downs,” he said. “While he’s a little undersized, he does have the quickness and speed to keep himself from being mauled. He was good in 2016, but great in 2017 and projects as a player who hasn’t tapped his full potential. Smith has Pro Bowl traits and talent and will come off the board in the first round.”
Smith will be in the green room in Dallas and will absolutely be drafted on Round 1. In fact, Bleacher Report NFL Draft Lead Writer Matt Miller believes Smith won’t make it out of the top-10.
“Roquan Smith isn’t the biggest guy (6’1″, 236 lbs.) but is incredibly fast to the ball and showed that with his 4.52 time in the 40-yard dash,” Miller said. He’s the best in the draft class at playing the run and can be a shutdown player outside the hashes. He reminds me of a young Bobby Wagner in that way. The 49ers already have a need at stack linebacker and may have an even bigger one depending on Reuben Foster‘s legal situation. Smith gives them insurance should Foster miss games but could turn the front seven into a strength if both can get onto the field together.”
That Bobby Wagner comparison perked the ears of more than a few IDP types. I heard them go up.