Photo: Brett Davis - USA TODAY Sports

7-for-7: Georgia LB Roquan Smith

A look at some non-quarterback targets for the Bills

April 20, 2018 - 12:21 am

Joe DiBiase reporting
@DiBiaseWGR


Seven players in seven days. 

Most of the talk surrounding the Buffalo Bills and the 2018 NFL Draft has been focused toward quarterback. However, there are many other glaring holes on the Bills roster that could be addressed in the draft, especially if the Bills do not trade up for a quarterback. Fans may be unfamiliar with a lot of them with all the talk directed towards Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Josh Allen, Baker Mayfield, etc. 

As of now, the Bills sit with the 12th and 22nd pick in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft. Over the next week leading up to the draft, we'll take a look at some of the top non-quarterback players the Bills could target with either pick.

Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith piled up awards in his junior season last year. He was named as the SEC Defensive Player of the Year, the Butkus Award winner for the nation's top linebacker, SEC Champion, First-team All-SEC, SEC Championship Game MVP, and a Consensus All-American. 


Draft Projection:

Top-15 pick - Maybe the most popular spot you'll see Roquan Smith go in mock drafts is 10th overall to the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders tried to fill their hole at inside linebacker last year with veteran Navarro Bowman, who is still a free agent and unlikely to re-sign with the Raiders. Some have Smith going sixth overall to the Indianapolis Colts, eighth overall to the Chicago Bears, and even 12th overall to the Bills. Virginia Tech linebacker Tremaine Edwards and Smith are usually the top-two inside linebackers in rankings and mock drafts. 


On the Field:

Strengths: Three down linebacker. Consistent tackler. Explosive in open space. This guy is the perfect modern-day NFL linebacker. Smith has the coverage skills to be a star linebacker in the NFL. He can cover running backs, tight ends, and even was able to cover wide receivers, at times, at Georgia. Smith has the ability to close quickly on those short and intermediate routes as well. Perfect for a zone coverage scheme. There are not a lot of linebackers in the NFL that can cover like Smith. Not only that, but he can rush the passer from his inside position. Last season, he had six and a half sacks. 

Weaknesses: At times, Smith can get swallowed up by offensive linemen in the run game. Many experts believe he'll need to work on his hand technique against on coming blockers.


Measurables

Height: 6' 1''
Weight: 225-pounds
40-time: 4.51
Hand size: 10"
Arm length: 32"

Smith has elite athletic ability, but is slightly undersized for the NFL. It shouldn't be enough to hinder him, however, Smith is fast. He ran the second fastest 40-time at the combine, only finishing behind UCF's Shaquem Griffin. Smith actually played wide receiver in high school. 


NFL Comparables:

Luke Kuechly / The bizarro Reggie Ragland - Sean McDermott was spoiled by having Luke Kuechly as his middle linebacker in Carolina. Smith would be, maybe, the closest he could get to the same thing. The only difference is that Kuechly is two inches taller and almost 20-pounds larger. Otherwise, their strong suits are similar. Smith really has the potential, like Kuechly, to be a franchise linebacker. 


Fit with the Bills:

Smith would step in Day 1 and start as the Mike linebacker for the Bills, replacing Preston Brown. If the Bills were to end up taking Smith as early as they'd have to, you'd have to think he'd be an immediate upgrade, even as a rookie. Sean McDermott's defense features a lot of zone coverage, so Smith would be a near perfect fit. 

Maybe the best way to think of Roquan Smith is the Baker Mayfield of the linebackers. He would be a can't miss prospect if he was just a little bigger, but when you watch the film, he's a baller.

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