One player that could go to the Oakland Raiders in the top 10 of the NFL Draft is Georgia Bulldogs linebacker Roquan Smith. Here is his NFL Draft profile.
The Oakland Raiders will have either the No. 9 or the No. 10 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. That all depends on how the ceremonial coin flip at the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis with the Bay Area rival San Francisco 49ers goes. One player that is certain to go in the top-half of the first round of the NFL Draft is Georgia Bulldogs inside linebacker Roquan Smith.
Smith leaves Georgia after his true junior season in Athens. In 2017, Smith would be named SEC Defensive Player of the Year and win the Dick Butkus Award for the best linebacker in college football. Smith was an instrumental part in the Georgia defense the last three years. The 2017 Dawgs won their first SEC Championship since 2005, making it to their first College Football Playoff. However, Georgia lost the title bout to head coach Kirby Smart‘s mentor in Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Obviously, there is a lot to like about Smith as an NFL prospect. He is a proficient and relentless tackler, as he can chase down any ball carrier from sideline to sideline. His football instincts are off the charts, as Smith almost always finds his way to where the ball is.
Smith is a bit undersized at 6-foot-1, 225 pounds to be a traditional inside linebacker, but could be a leader in an NFL defense for a long time. Though he didn’t record an interception in college, Smith was able expand his game in 2017 by being a greater pursuer of the quarterback. He registered all 6.5 of his quarterback sacks in 2017 as a true junior.
What makes Smith such a compelling NFL Draft prospect is that it will be awfully hard to scheme him off the field. He can succeed in a 3-4 or 4-3 base defense. While most NFL defenses play predominantly out of nickel package subsets, that would actually help his draft stock considerably. Smith has the speed to drop back into pass coverage, as well as chase down pass catchers out of the backfield or in the slot. He will make plays in the middle of an NFL defense.
In terms of NFL prototypes, there are a few high-end players his game compares favorably to. Being an undersized inside linebacker, Smith could end up playing like Deion Jones of the Atlanta Falcons. Jones has better hands, as he can force turnovers better than Smith. However, Smith is entering the NFL with greater praise than did Jones coming out of LSU.
Kuechly was the most heralded inside linebacking prospect in years coming out of Boston College in 2011. To say that Smith will be as good as Kuechly certainly puts a ton of pressure on the guy. However, his abilities as a sure tackler in and around the tackle box make the comparison favorable. If Smith is half as good as Kuechly, then the Raiders or whichever team drafts made a great choice.
But perhaps the best NFL comparison would be another former Georgia great in Davis. Like Smith will be, Davis was a first-round pick out of Georgia in the mid-2000s. He carved out an outstanding career with the Panthers, making several Pro Bowls and earning Walter Payton Man of the Year honors.
The sideline to sideline playmaking ability of Davis set him apart. Though Smith is more of a run-first player, we could see him tap into middle of the defense menace that is Davis before he retires from the game. Another comparison that will be made for Smith is the Raiders’ own NaVorro Bowman. Bowman had more physical talent in his prime than Smith, but certainly made his teammates better by having high football instincts.
Barring injury or off-the-field issues, there is very little bust potential for Smith. The only two things that could be concerning are a lack of turnovers in college and being a bit undersized for the position. Smith doesn’t have to be an elite turnover creator in the pros, but will need to amplify that part of his game to have tremendous staying power at the next level.
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What really would hurt him is that he could get exposed by power backs running behind a dominating man blocking scheme. A well-designed running game could isolate him and force Smith to take on a bruising tailback that has 15 or more pounds on him. He could get worn down early in the game, allowing the opposing offense to move the ball at will on the defense Smith would presumably wear the green dot for.
Overall, Smith could go as high as No. 5 to the Denver Broncos, but wouldn’t stay on the board past maybe the Green Bay Packers at No. 14. In essence, Smith is likely to go around where the Raiders are picking at No. 9 or 10. Oakland does have a major need at inside linebacker.
Should the Raiders bring back Bowman in free agency, then Oakland may not take him. If Bowman signs elsewhere in free agency, it’s hard to not draft an inside linebacking talent the caliber of Smith at No. 9 or No. 10. He’d look good in Silver and Black, too. Just saying.