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Bears' Roquan Smith 'Best Overall LB in Football,' NFL Coordinator Says

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVJuly 7, 2022

AP Photo/Jason Behnken

Chicago Bears linebacker Roquan Smith received no shortage of praise from others within the NFL as part of ESPN's ranking of the top 10 off-ball linebackers in the NFL.

In determining the top 10 players at 11 different positions, ESPN's Jeremy Fowler spoke to 50 anonymous NFL executives, coaches, scouts and players, all of whom voted to create the list.

Smith had plenty of support from the voters, including an NFL coordinator who said the following about him: "Best overall LB in football in my opinion. Others might be slightly better in one of the four facets of the game—run game, pass coverage, blitzer, leadership—but that kid is top four in every category."

Smith placed fifth in the voting behind only Darius Leonard of the Indianapolis Colts, Micah Parsons of the Dallas Cowboys, Fred Warner of the San Francisco 49ers and Devin White of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

An anonymous Pro Bowl NFL player suggested Smith may have been even higher on the list under different circumstances, saying: "If he was in somewhere like Dallas, he'd be celebrated as maybe the best. He doesn't get the credit he probably deserves."

Expectations were astronomically high for Smith when the Bears selected him with the No. 8 overall pick in the 2018 NFL draft out of Georgia, and he has largely lived up to them.

Smith hasn't missed a game in three of his four NFL seasons, and has appeared in 61 of a possible 65 games overall.

He has also reached the 100-tackle mark in each of his four seasons, including a career-high 163 in 2021.

Additionally, Smith has recorded 14 sacks, 43 tackles for loss, five interceptions and 17 passes defended during his NFL career thus far.

Remarkably, Smith still hasn't earned a Pro Bowl or first-team All-Pro selection, although he has been a second-team All-Pro in each of the past two seasons.

The Bears are a historic franchise, but the 25-year-old Smith finds himself in a difficult position in terms of receiving proper recognition.

Chicago has missed the playoffs in two of the past three seasons and hasn't finished with a winning record since 2018. It is also coming off a 6-11 campaign that resulted in the firing of head coach Matt Nagy.

The Bears are shaping up to perhaps be one of the worst teams in the NFL in 2022, as they offloaded several of their best players on both sides of the ball.

Khalil Mack, Akiem Hicks, Eddie Goldman and Danny Trevathan are among the key defensive players gone from last year's team, but Smith remains, and he appears poised to be the face of Chicago's defense for many years to come.

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