Heading into the 2017 season, the Miami Dolphins had high hopes for their team. On defense, the addition of second-round draft pick Raekwon McMillan, was supposed to solidify the middle of the field for years to come. Unfortunately, his first play as a professional football player, ended with a season-ending injury. In wake of his injury, Kiko Alonso was moved back to MLB, and the defense struggled mightily, relying on veteran linebacker Lawrence Timmons and a rotation of Stephone Anthony and Chase Allen.
This year, Raekwon McMillan should be healthy and Kiko Alonso will move back to the outside. Surely, the Dolphins had to be happy with the way Anthony and Allen played in 2017, but not happy enough to anoint them their future at linebacker. Thankfully for Miami, this year’s class is littered with good linebackers, but two stand above and beyond the rest. Virginia Tech’s Tremaine Edmunds is one of them, However, my favorite linebacker in the 2018 class is Roquan Smith. So without further ado....
Here is my draft breakdown on Georgia linebacker, Roquan Smith.
Weight: 236 LBs
Hometown: Montezuma, Georgia
Roquan Smith is fast and the moment he realized the quarterback still had the football, he reacted accordingly. The quarterback never had a chance and if he could go back and time, would have handed the football off. Quick instincts and reaction time.
I bet if the QB had a time machine, he would’ve handed the ball off. most impressive, is roquan’s closing speed. incredible. pic.twitter.com/HoIROCD1ql— josh houtz (@houtz) March 20, 2018
In Matt Burke’s defense, Roquan Smith would be best suited at weakside linebacker. Here, you see his ability to use his speed to elude blocks, on his way to the ball carrier. Yes, he might struggle to disengage at times, but in situations like this, the offense never stands a chance.
when was the last time the #dolphins had a linebacker that could read and react this quickly? as soon as the ball is snapped, roquan attacks the los. he shoots the gap and stop the back for a minimal gain. pic.twitter.com/3BiSpWS9Ti— josh houtz (@houtz) March 20, 2018
Smith was PFF’s #1 rated linebacker in coverage last season, and here you see a bit of the reason why. On third down, Roquan’s number one responsible is guarding the middle of the field, and not allowing the offense to extend the drive. As soon as the ball is snapped, he drops back into zone coverage. As the receiver begins to cut underneath on the crossing route, he plants his foot and attacks the defender.
here, roquan is in zone coverage. he sees the WR on the crossing route and reacts without hesitation. big stop on third down. pic.twitter.com/DvjNmNCrgm— josh houtz (@houtz) March 20, 2018
Here’s another example of the kind of cover linebacker Roquan Smith can be. The camera angle isn’t the best, but Smith remains in coverage 20+ yards downfield and breaks up the pass in the corner of the end zone. This is something the Dolphins desperately need at linebacker, and would help greatly against the league’s bigger tight ends.
I’m not sure this play ever stood a chance, but roquan smith 20+ yards downfield breaking up a pass is extremely impressive. pic.twitter.com/Vsb4UDFYqu— josh houtz (@houtz) March 20, 2018
Pretty routine play here, but you see Roquan’s ability to read and react. Nice tackle for loss in the open field, on a poorly thrown ball.
fake toss, pass to the HB in the flats@ none of that nonsense phases roquan smith. pic.twitter.com/Q3PsNXIEaw— josh houtz (@houtz) March 20, 2018
At times, Roquan appears to be on skates. Gliding seamless from side to side. Here he mirrors the running backs movement, and meets him in the hole.
roquan mirrors the running back, explodes through the hole, and tackles the HB for a minimal gain. pic.twitter.com/WWhJJhJfsu— josh houtz (@houtz) March 22, 2018
As soon as the ball is snapped, Smith is reading the quarterback’s eyes. Once he realizes the quarterback still has the ball, he begins to attack the line of scrimmage, more particularly the receiver fading into the flats. His speed and quickness allows him to get to the receiver, stopping him for a minimal gain.
quick instincts, sideline to sideline range. Miami could use this type of player on defense. pic.twitter.com/XumrspeOUb— josh houtz (@houtz) March 22, 2018
Another misdirection play, designed to catch the defense off guard. However, Roquan Smith isn’t any ordinary linebacker and isn’t fooled by the hand-off to the wide receiver. Tackle in the open field results in a minimal gain.
At the start of the play, Roquan Smith is on the other side of the field. A fake to the running back forces the linebacker to hesitate. He ultimately chases him down with his 4.51 speed, preventing the big play. Solid hit on the ball carrier.
chases the HB down from the other side of the field, and makes him pay for the first down. pic.twitter.com/snLIfV1m7h— josh houtz (@houtz) March 22, 2018
His size continues to be used against him throughout the draft process, but he plays much bigger than his 6’1 frame. Here you see his ability to beat the block with his quickness, and weave in and out of traffic on his way to the ball carrier.
roquan might not be the biggest LB, but his speed and quickness allows him to make plays others can’t. pic.twitter.com/OEzUm1ONU9— josh houtz (@houtz) March 22, 2018
Roquan Smith is a dog. Here, he times the blitz perfectly and beats the initial block from the Sooners’ running back. Mayfield is able to allude the pressure initially, but is met by a pack of bulldogs in the backfield.
the pressure from roquan almost gets to mayfield initially. mayfield breaks free, but is met by a pack of bulldogs. pic.twitter.com/rn2VGdRgR4— josh houtz (@houtz) March 22, 2018
This play wouldn’t be possible without terrific coverage downfield. Once Mayfield realizes he has nowhere to go with the football and the pressure mounts, he takes off with the football. Roquan Smith is there to make initial contact, ultimately leading to the tackle.
good coverage forces mayfield to run with the football. roquan closes and makes the stop for a short gain. pic.twitter.com/LtsbluCzFD— josh houtz (@houtz) March 22, 2018
and another look.
another look at roquan’s ability to change direction in coverage and his ability to get to mayfield in a hurry. pic.twitter.com/e5mKcSkF5i— josh houtz (@houtz) March 22, 2018
Roquan Smith just finds ways to make plays. Here, he holds his ground and prevents the receiver from getting to the outside. He disengages from the running back to get inside, takes a hit from behind by the offensive lineman, and still makes the tackle for a loss. This is the type of linebacker the Dolphins desperately need.
Roquan Smith is so fluid in his movement. Here, you see his ability to move side to side, on his way to the ball carrier. Great play.
oh my dot com
no wasted movement and his speed is unreal. pic.twitter.com/bld8zCB9lE— josh houtz (@houtz) March 22, 2018
Never expect a running back to block Roquan Smith.
expecting a HB to block a blitzing roquan smith is foolish. pic.twitter.com/5eWxWvOX2d— josh houtz (@houtz) March 22, 2018
not even a pick can stop roquan smith from getting to the ball carrier. pic.twitter.com/N3SzKzSGOb— josh houtz (@houtz) March 22, 2018
Hard to put all the blame on Roquan here, but had he not missed the tackle, this would not have been a big play. Again, you see how elusive he can be, as he beats the lineman on his way to the ball carrier. Unfortunately a mistimed tackle, results in a huge gain.
missed tackle, allows the running back to score on the well-timed screen play. pic.twitter.com/uKmjE881xQ— josh houtz (@houtz) March 22, 2018
In this play, you see how size is a factor. Smith doesn’t stand a chance, as he gets completely washed out by the Oklahoma offensive lineman. This is a rarity, but it happens enough to be cautiously optimistic as he prepares to take on bigger, stronger offensive lineman in the NFL.
here roquan gets washed out of the play. resilient, but still unable to make the tackle. pic.twitter.com/ADmHzAFJr1— josh houtz (@houtz) March 22, 2018
Roquan Smith is a hell of a coverage linebacker. In this play, you see what kind of athlete Baker Mayfield is and as he extends the play, Smith is unable to cover the receiver in the back of the end zone. Can’t blame him one bit.
no LBer can be expected to cover their man this long. great throw from baker mayfield pic.twitter.com/uQijQTfbln— josh houtz (@houtz) March 22, 2018
In the end, the biggest negative that continues to surround Roquan Smith is his size. Sure, some teams have red flagged him medically due to a previous shoulder injury, but that’s not what scouts and analysts are talking about. It’s his 6’1 , 236-pound frame which continues to come up when referring to Smith. For me, that’s not an issue. None of it is.
As I stated previously, Smith is best suited as a weakside linebacker, and that’s exactly what the Dolphins need with Raekwon McMillan currently occupying the middle. Drafting the best linebacker in the draft will give Matt Burke a new chess piece, and help in his continuous effort to scheme against the AFC East powerhouse, New England Patriots. The biggest question regarding Roquan Smith to me, remains whether or not he will be available when the Dolphins select at 11. I’m not sure he will be, but one thing is for certain, he’s one of the truly elite players in this year’s class at a position of critical need. Drafting Smith will better the entire defense. It will bring added leadership to the locker room. But most importantly, it will give the Dolphins another elite playmaker to help them reach the next level. An elite player who loves the game of football.
This article was written by Josh Houtz. Follow him on Twitter!