Bears inside linebacker Roquan Smith, guard James Daniels and defensive tackle Bilal Nichols have all been named to ESPN.com’s NFL all-rookie team.
Selected by the Bears with the eighth pick in the first round of the draft, Smith led the team with 122 tackles, two shy of the franchise record that Hall of Famer Brian Urlacher set in 2000. Smith also registered five sacks, eight tackles-for-loss, five pass breakups and five quarterback hits while playing in all 16 games with 15 starts.
“It was huge to watch him just kind of flourish, especially in the late part of the year,” said general manager Ryan Pace. “You talk to Roquan and you can just feel—no different than any other player—he’s feeling comfortable in the defense. So now he’s not thinking as much, he’s just playing with his instincts and he’s playing fast.
“Those are his greatest strengths, his instincts and his speed. The sky’s the limit for him. It’s just exciting to see him grow. I think you saw a glimpse of what he’s going to be, especially in the later part of the season.”
Chosen by the Bears in the second round with the 39th pick, Daniels appeared in all 16 games and started the final 10 contests at left guard. The Iowa product showed steady improvement throughout the season and helped the Bears win nine of his 10 starts.
Selected by the Bears in the fifth round with the 145th pick out of Delaware, Nichols showed his play-making ability as part of the defensive line rotation. He recorded 28 tackles, three sacks, five tackles-for-loss, seven quarterback hits, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery while appearing in 14 games with six starts.
With three players on ESPN.com’s all-rookie team, the Bears tied for the most in the NFL with the Browns and Colts.