The Bears received straight A's across the board for their selection of Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith with the eighth pick in the draft. Here's how some analysts graded the move:
Andy Benoit, Sports Illustrated
Comment: Vic Fangio is one of the game's smartest, most nuanced schemers, and two things define a Fangio defense: Blurry zone coverages and nickel packages (almost never dime). A team needs great inside linebackers to do this. Zone disguises start at safety—Fangio likes to keep two back deep—but they're perfected at linebacker, a position where many defenses don't think to employ subtle disguises. By playing nickel every snap, even if there are four wide receivers on the field, Fangio places tall orders on his linebackers in coverage. When you have the right ones, it can be great (Remember what Fangio did in San Francisco with Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman?), and Smith, one of the most dynamic all-around stack linebackers in this draft, should fill this role successfully.
Comment: The Bears draft a linebacker, and suddenly all feels right in the world. Roquan Smith wins this year's Most Distracting Prospect Award, given to the player who upstages other players on their own tape cut-ups. Try to focus on some SEC offensive prospect so you can break his game down, and whammo! There's Smith blitzing like a missile, or breaking up a pass in the middle of the field, or evading blockers and meeting the running back at the line of scrimmage on 3rd-and-short. He steals the scene from the star every time he shows up. He's like all of the characters except Black Panther in Black Panther.
Roquan Smith chases down the play while playing for Georgia in the SEC Championship.
Smith is also one of the safest selections in this draft. Calling a selection "safe" is almost a backhanded compliment, because teams are supposed to be bold and daring and find players with a five percent chance of becoming Lawrence Taylor instead of just getting the experienced, productive, obvious choice. Smith is almost guaranteed to become a productive starter, probably as a rookie, and will probably develop into a perennial Pro Bowler.
Of course, Smith plays a position where talent is plentiful and the difference between an All-Pro and a serviceable starter doesn't have that much impact on the win-loss column. But overthinking the economics of the draft is a great way to leave gaping holes in the middle of your depth chart. Chicago just got a three-down linebacker with big-play capability who should be a high-level starter for the next decade. Look for Smith to soon start upstaging some of the guys drafted ahead of him on their own highlight reels. This is a fine selection for the sleeper team that no one is talking about.
Pete Prisco, CBS Sports
Comment: They needed a playmaker at linebacker and this kid has Ray Lewis qualities. Like it.
Chad Reuter, NFL,com
Comment: The Bears found much-needed speed and talent for their defense in Smith. He's not a physical specimen in the Brian Urlacher mold, but he's still a force to be reckoned with. The Georgia star was the best player on the board at the eighth pick.
Comment: I thought the Bears would want Tremaine Edmunds over Roquan Smith because Edmunds fits the sort of prospect Ryan Pace has drafted in the past. Smith has less upside, but I think he's a much better player, at least the moment. Smith is a very intelligent linebacker who always seems to be in the right place at the right time. Chicago really struggled defensively when Danny Trevathan was hurt, so I love adding arguably the top player available who fills a need.
Comment: Feels like the Bears got the next great young linebacker. In an evolving NFL where linebackers who can play coverage are prized – along with maintaining a hard edge against the run – Smith is a standout for his versatility.