Chiefs

Rating the top inside linebackers in the 2018 NFL Draft with an eye on the Chiefs' needs

LB Roquan Smith all-22 film and highlights

Georgia LB Roquan Smith all-22 film and highlights from the 2017 season.
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Georgia LB Roquan Smith all-22 film and highlights from the 2017 season.

Included in measurables are height, weight and 40-yard-dash time. Grades and rankings are based on film study and proprietary reporting. Grades are intended to convey a general sense of the draftee’s value, and where he might be selected.

Chiefs’ need at the position: Low. The KC Chiefs would appear to be pretty much set at inside linebacker, having surrendered a 2019 fourth-round pick for Reggie Ragland and a five-year, $45 million contract to acquire Anthony Hitchens.

Throw in the presence of 2017 fifth-round pick Ukeme Eligwe (a gifted player still training his eyes) and third-year pro Terrance Smith (a good special-teamer), and the Chiefs have plenty of players with upside that they need to evaluate over the next season. However, there could be room as well for a developmental cover linebacker, someone who can help in their nickel and dime sub-packages in case of an injury and contribute on special teams. Perhaps someone in the fifth round or below.

GRADING SCALE

7.5-7.1:
Top 10 pick

7.0: 11-20

6.9: 21-32

6.8: Top half of the second

6.7: Bottom half of the second

6.6: Top half of the third

6.5: Bottom half of the third

6.4: Fourth-round pick

6.3: Fifth-round pick

6.2: Sixth-round pick

6.1: Seventh-round pick

6.0: Priority free agent

5.9: Non-prospect

Top 10 rankings

1. ROQUAN SMITH, Georgia

Measurables 6-1, 236, 4.51

Bio: Two-year starter who had 137 tackles (14 for loss), 6 1/2 sacks, two pass deflections, one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries in 15 games in 2017. Declared after true junior season.

Consensus: New-age linebacker who can play all three downs and possesses terrific athleticism, anticipation, fast eyes, range and blitz ability; is an immediately plug-and-play option as a weakside 4-3 linebacker or on the inside of a 3-4, despite a lack of size that might require a defensive line that can keep him clean.

Grade: 7.2



2. TREMAINE EDMUNDS, Virginia Tech

Measurables: 6-5, 253, 4.47

Bio: Two-year starter who had 108 tackles (14 for loss), 5 1/2 sacks, two pass deflections and three forced fumbles in 13 games in 2017. Declared after true junior season.

Consensus: Possesses outstanding physical tools; terrific athlete with rare size and length (34 1/2-inch arms), plus-plus athleticism (4.54 40), football genes (dad was a Pro Bowl tight end and brother is likely a top-50 pick) and positional versatility (could play on the edge as well). These things should make him a shoo-in as a top-10 pick, though he’ll need to work on his eyes and instincts to fully tap into his immense potential.

Grade: 7.2



3. LEIGHTON VANDER ESCH, Boise State

Measurables 6-4, 256, 4.65

Bio: One-year starter who had 141 tackles (8 1/2 for loss), four sacks, two interceptions, five pass deflections and four forced fumbles in 14 games in 2017. Declared after redshirt junior season.

Consensus: Moves really well for his size and carries his weight well, looks the part and shows some juice as a pass rusher and cover linebacker; has good eyes and range for the position, sifts through trash with skill and could be a very good pro from the get-go, though he must keep working on his ability to shed blockers.

Grade: 6.9



4. RASHAAN EVANS, Alabama

Measurables 6-3, 232, N/A

Bio: One-year starter who had 74 tackles (13 for loss), six sacks, three pass deflections, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery in 12 games in 2017.

Consensus: Has the size and power to take on blocks in the box, but also enough quickness and movement skills to stay on the field for three downs. Needs to keep working on his eyes; his draft stock might be affected by his curious decision to skip the 40-yard dash at his pro day, though it’s worth noting he played through a groin injury last season.

Grade: 6.8



5. JEROME BAKER, Ohio State

Measurables 6-1, 229, 4.53

Bio: Two-year starter who had 72 tackles (eight for loss), 3 1/2 sacks, three pass deflections, one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries in 13 games in 2017. Declared after true junior season.

Consensus: Speedy, undersized linebacker with good quickness and potential as a nickel linebacker; doesn’t pack much punch as a hitter and doesn’t have the instincts or physicality to consistently bang in the box against big offensive lines but has good man-cover ability vs. running backs and tight ends (with plus ball skills) and is adept and blitzing and shooting gaps.

Grade: 6.6



6. MALIK JEFFERSON, Texas

Measurables 6-3, 236, 4.52

Bio: Three-year starter who had 110 tackles (10 for loss) and four sacks in 12 games in 2017. Declared after true junior season.

Consensus: Best football is probably still ahead of him — is only 21 years old; height-weight-speed prospect with range, experience and a strong frame who shows lots of juice as a blitzer and has starter traits but needs to do a better job processing the game with his eyes and shedding/avoiding blockers.

Grade: 6.5



7. MICAH KISER, Virginia

Measurables 6-2, 238, 4.66

Bio: Three-year starter who had 143 tackles (9 1/2 for loss), five sacks, four pass deflections and two fumble recoveries in 13 games in 2017.

Consensus: Super-productive football player who has the stout frame, pop in his hands and overall power needed to hold up in the box and stop the run; average athleticism could affect his man-coverage ability, however.

Grade: 6.5



8. JOSEY JEWELL, Iowa

Measurables 6-1, 234, 4.82

Bio: Four-year starter who had 132 tackles (13 1/2 for loss), 4 1/2 sacks, two interceptions, 11 pass deflections, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery in 12 games in 2017.

Consensus: Experienced, productive and tough; outstanding overall football player and big, big hitter whose instincts, high football IQ and nasty temperament help him make up for the average athleticism and lack of size that could limit his man-coverage ability and overall ceiling in the minds of some.

Grade: 6.4



9. FRED WARNER, Brigham Young

Measurables 6-3, 236, 4.64

Bio: Three-year starter who had 87 tackles (nine for loss), one sack, one interception, five pass deflections, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery in 13 games in 2017.

Consensus: Has some quickness and is comfortable playing on the edge and in space; has pop in his hands and shows the ability to match up in coverage, which could help him carve out a role with nearly any team despite his issues as a tackler.

Grade: 6.4



10. OREN BURKS, Vanderbilt

Measurables 6-3, 233, 4.59

Bio: Four-year starter who had 80 tackles (seven for loss), one sack, three pass deflections and one fumble recovery in 11 games in 2017.

Consensus: Experienced, versatile second-level defender with solid athleticism (he actually started 12 games at safety in 2014); nice combination of pop as a tackler and man-cover ability, and has the look of a potential three-down linebacker if he can improve his tackling and eyes.

Grade: 6.4



Others to watch: Oren Burks, Vanderbilt; Jack Cichy, Wisconsin; Chris Covington, Indiana; Shaquem Griffin, Central Florida; Shaun Dion Hamilton, Alabama; Joel Iyiegbuniwe, Western Kentucky; Darius Leonard, South Carolina State; Dorian O’Daniel, Clemson; Tegray Scales, Indiana

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