First-round picks are supposed to make a significant impact as rookies. That's why they're first-rounders. It's no exception for Chicago Bears linebacker Roquan Smith.
Smith, 21, will start alongside Danny Trevathan after a career at Georgia that resulted in numerous awards and accolades, most notably the 2017 Dick Butkus Award given to the nation's top collegiate linebacker. Now, Smith has to live up to the standard set by Butkus, Mike Singletary and Brian Urlacher for a franchise that loves its linebackers like other fan bases value quarterbacks.
According to Pro Football Focus, Smith will check all the boxes in 2018. He was recently named to their list of 20 newcomers expected to make the biggest impact this season.
Smith, a standout in Athens with Georgia a year ago, possesses the elite athleticism, range and speed to excel as a three-down linebacker in today’s pass-happy NFL. In addition to his 86.1 run-defense grade, Smith earned an elite 90.6 coverage grade in 2017.
Assuming Chicago's pass rush comes together, Vic Fangio's defense has a chance to be one of the best all-around units in the NFL this season. All three levels of the defense have talent, ranging from Akiem Hicks and Eddie Goldman on the defensive line, Leonard Floyd rushing the passer, Kyle Fuller locking down receivers, and Eddie Jackson and Adrian Amos striking fear into opposing quarterbacks and receivers. Smith and Trevathan will man the second level and are as talented of a linebacker tandem as there is in the league.
Rarely is a first-round pick met with such confidence as Smith has been with the Bears. Hype is dangerous, but with Smith, the risk of him becoming a bust is extremely low.