2018 NFL Draft: Is dynamic, game-changing LB Roquan Smith right for Miami Dolphins?

Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith is first-round talent. (Joshua L. Jones/Athens Banner-Herald via AP)

INDIANAPOLIS — The Miami Dolphins need a dynamic, explosive, play-making linebacker who can handle coverage and also chase from sideline-to-sideline and finish with authority.

The Dolphins need a youngster like Roquan Smith, the linebacker from Georgia.

“My relentless pursuit,” Smith said Saturday at the NFL Scouting Combine. “I believe in that. 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.”

Smith was dominant in the College Football Playoff. But he was really dominant in the SEC all season.

“I feel like I can make a tremendous impact on the defense, just with my play-making ability, my leadership qualities,” Smith said. “And everything that I possess, as a football player on and off the field. I feel like that will definitely elevate any defense.”

The Dolphins are planning to cut veteran linebacker Lawrence Timmons. Pairing a player with Smith’s talents with sophomore Raekwon McMillan and veteran Kiko Alonso could change the complexion of Miami’s defense.

Roquan and Raekwon sounds about right. They’re both young. And they both have excellent instincts.

“I feel like I’m very instinctual,” Smith said. “My IQ of the game and my sideline-to-sideline ability. My ability to strike guys. And make plays. I’m just a play-maker, if you ask me.”

According to a scouting report on NFL.com, Smith has: “Elite athletic ability, plus intelligence and an ability to be an effective cover linebacker on passing downs. While he’s a little undersized, he does have the quickness and speed to keep himself from being mauled. He was good in 2016, but great in 2017 and projects as a player who hasn’t tapped his full potential. Smith has Pro Bowl traits and talent.”

The Dolphins would be favored to spend their first-round draft choice on an offensive player. Last year, Miami loaded up on defense. But if Miami were to go defense in the first round, linebacker would be a good bet.

“Great teams have great defensive players, more so at the linebacker position,” Smith said. “You can take control of a defense. Pretty much most of the time we’re the leaders of the defense. And you have to make a lot of plays. And all of the checks for a defense. Very good linebackers can definitely elevate defenses.”

 

Smith says he’s a student of the game. He has done lengthy research on snap counts. And believes his coverage strengths are a result of preparation, which allows him to decode an opposing players’ plan when on the field.

“It’s just preparation,” he said. “Knowing the opponent. Knowing what the opponent likes to do. As well as just reading a running backs’ hips and things like that. Because they can’t go anywhere without their hips. And I pretty much know that. They can do all this (Smith began shaking his head) but at the end of the day it all comes down to their hips.”

Jones was considered an excellent leader at Georgia.

“Just a guy who truly cares about his teammates,” he said. “On and off the field. Regardless of the situation. Always be there for them through adversity. Whether they’re at their high or at their low. Someone you can depend on. Someone that you know is committed on and off the field and leads by example as well.”

Many scouts have compared Smith, who is 6-foot-1, 236 pounds, to Falcons linebacker Deion Jones because of their versatility, speed and athleticism. And Smith embraces the comparison.

“I definitely watch Deion Jones,” Smith said. “He plays for the Atlanta Falcons and from Athens, Georgia, it’s not very far. Actually just being able to watch a guy like that who came into the league and was labeled as undersized and you know he fought against a lot of obstacles and went over them and got through it. So he’s done a lot of good things for the Falcons. And made a Pro Bowl this year. So that speaks for itself.”

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