This is the fourth of a 10-part series breaking down players in play for the Dolphins with the 11th overall pick.
Part 1: Minkah Fitzpatrick.
Part 2: Vita Vea.
Part 3: Josh Rosen.
Even by today’s pass-happy standards, Roquan Smith is small for a linebacker.
If you simply measure him up (he stands 6-1, 236 pounds), you would guess Smith projects more as a physical safety than one of the most dynamic linebackers in this year’s draft.
But then you turn on the tape. And he becomes a tackling blur in a Georgia uniform.
He’s going to go in the top 11 in a few weeks. The only question is if he makes it to the Dolphins at 11.
If he does, he could turn a perennial Dolphins question mark into a strength for years to come.
Just listen to Lance Zierlein of NFL.com gush about Smith, who became the Bulldogs’ first Butkus Award winner (given to the nation’s top linebacker) in 2017 after amassing 137 tackles, including 14 for loss, and recovering three fumbles.
“Fluid and explosive in space.”
“Has instincts and football intelligence.”
So what’s not to like if you’re the Dolphins and have a Grand Canyon-sized hole at outside linebacker?
Well, he is not a perfect fit at strong-side linebacker, which is where the Dolphins need a starter. He projects far better at the weakside. The problem is, that’s where Kiko Alonso is expected to play.
A possible solution: Move Alonso back to MIKE, his natural position, plug in second-year linebacker Raekwan McMillan at SAM, and let Smith play the WILL.
Smith would be ideal in nickel and dime sets, and his 6 1/2 sacks last year would give offensive coordinators yet another thing to worry about. The Dolphins’ interest is more than passing; defensive coordinator Matt Burke flew to Athens to get a close look at Smith during Georgia’s Pro Day.
“I feel like I can make a tremendous impact on the defense, just with my playmaking ability, my leadership qualities,” Smith said at the NFL Scouting Combine. “And everything that I possess, as a football player on and off the field. I feel like that will definitely elevate any defense.”
Height: 6-foot-1 (10th percentile among outside linebackers).
Weight: 236 pounds (37th percentile).
Wingspan: 77 inches (38th percentile).
Arm length: 32 inches (26th percentile).
Hands: 10 inches (74th percentile).
40 time: 4.51 seconds (92nd percentile).
Comparisons (per MockDraftable.com): Stephen Hodge (TCU, 2009), DeAndre Levy (Wisconsin, 2009), Barrett Green (West Virgina, 2000)
He said it
“I was always taught, if you start something, finish. And take advantage of every opportunity. And tomorrow is not promised. If it’s my last play that I ever play, how do I want to go out? So I feel like every play, I treat like it’s my last play. And I bust my tail like I don’t have a next play.” — Roquan Smith
They said it
“Roquan Smith is different, smaller. Reminds me of Dion Jones. He’s today’s off-the-ball inside linebacker because of his ability to run. Very good at getting over and under big bodies so doesn’t have to take them on, like Deion Jones with the Atlanta Falcons. When you look at him, what I saw is they’re both energy-givers. Teams flock around these guys. They love the energy. They’re explosive sideline-to-sideline. If you can get a big body on them, you can block them, but they’re so adept at slipping the block over or under, it’s difficult to get done. I think he’s a plug-and-play, off-the-ball linebacker. People are going to love Roquan Smith.” — Mike Mayock, NFL.com