The Los Angeles Rams have plenty of uncertainties at linebacker. Switching to a 3-4 defense means it would benefit the Rams to be on the lookout for linebackers that can cover. One prospect that comes to mind is Georgia LB Roquan Smith.
It’s an understatement to say that Smith is one of the most athletically gifted linebackers in the 2018 NFL Draft. His quickness and skills in coverage are effective enough to keep up with most offensive threats. He’s capable of starting and stopping on a dime, and his change of direction is better than some safeties and cornerbacks. Smith also uses his speed to slip blocks to increase pressure. Expect him to frustrate lineman into holding him.
Smith is a natural born leader. He relies on his instincts and possesses excellent game intelligence. His strong focus translated on the field as he earned 137 tackles and 6.5 sacks this past year. In fact, 2017 was his best as a Bulldog. He also played at a high level as a sophomore and contributed even as a freshman.
Smith’s skills are undeniable, but he’s a little undersized, which is his greatest weakness. At the collegiate level, he had to adjust quickly and be ahead of blockers. It goes without saying that he must deal with even faster blockers at the NFL level. Expect many scouts to evaluate his NFL Combine stats closely. The other issue concerns his hand placement. Smith is susceptible to being swallowed up by offensive linemen due to his size, but his hand placement isn’t the best to slip away from blockers. He will need some serious coaching if he wants to make an immediate impact.
Smith is possibly the best linebacker in the draft. He is talented, and the areas that need improving are actually coachable. Leadership and work ethic can’t be taught. Expect him to be a name to remember if he keeps his focus.
The Rams would need an absolute miracle for him to drop to the 23rd overall pick. Even if Smith has terrible Combine results, you can expect him to go at least in the top 15. A team will likely draft Smith in the top 10. In other words, if general manager Les Snead or defensive coordinator Wade Phillips really want to make a run for him, they will absolutely need to trade up. Anything is possible with Snead though.