Roquan Smith was not really on any of our radars until late in the draft process for various reasons. Reason number 1 was positional value. If we were going defense in the top 10, many thought it’s got to be someone who could pressure the QB. And for some reason, many believed that Tremaine Edmunds could be that guy even though he actually played the same position as Smith.
Reason number 2 was a rumor that Roquan Smith was medically red flagged. Obviously that rumor was untrue.
Reason number 3, possibly the biggest reason, was the specific game film of Roquan Smith against Oklahoma. Yes, he was getting thrown around a bit, but it’s only natural that if you’ve got a dude 100 lbs heavier than you barreling down on you that something’s gotta give. As an inside linebacker, if your defensive line is getting absolutely demolished and 320 lb guards are quickly getting upfield and getting their hands on you it doesn’t matter how strong you are, you are gonna get moved.
But that didn’t stop the criticism. Brett Kollmann came out with a video claiming that Roquan Smith was a scheme specific player, and the Chicago Bears defense was not that scheme. He went as far to say that because of Roquans “critical fatal flaw”, he could drop to as low as #28 in the draft. There just weren’t enough teams that had the personnel to mask his deficiency.
But as we got closer and closer to the draft, it was one Mike Mayock who opened our eyes. Just days before the draft, he preached that Roquan Smith was in fact a top 10 pick, and yes, even for a team like the Chicago Bears.
Yes, Roquan Smith is not the strongest guy in the world. Him refusing to do the bench press is all you need to know on that. And yes, that could effect some ILB’s who are standing flat footed and unsure of themselves in the open field. But Roquan Smith almost completely negates his lack of strength with other worldly play recognition. He’s the first guy on the field to read the play, and once he locks on there is on offensive lineman or TE quick enough to get in his path with his blazing closing speed.
It’s very hard to try to block someone who beats you to the point of attack...
Point of attack
Again, Roquan Smith looks like he’s getting an unfair head start on this play. He diagnosed it instantly and stuffs the play...
And it doesn’t even matter how far Roquan is from the line of scrimmage, his read and react is displayed all over the field. Here in coverage, he reads the qb and breaks on the ball at almost the same time as the QB makes his decision.
Couple his insane play recognition with elite closing speed and you have yourself a pretty special player. Here is a delayed blitz by Smith. He reads the fake handoff instantly and makes a break for the QB. Notice how there is absolutely no urgency by the QB. Roquan Smith had lined up so far away that the QB feels that he has plenty of time to get rid of the ball. And the QB would be correct for a greater portion of his career, that is until he met Mr. Smith. Roquan is able to make up ground in a flash and drill the qb as he’s releasing the ball.
Draft grade: B+
It’s not an A because I would have preferred a small trade down for an extra 2nd round pick. Not a high priority position of need.
2nd Round: James Daniels
One of my guys in this years draft, James Daniels is the total package. Can play both guard and center, and doesn't have to play center like I have him listed. His mobility, technique and elite balance makes him an elite talent and someone who'll outplay his draft position. All his weaknesses are related to lack of strength, which is very fixable. I expect James Daniels to start early and play at a pro bowl level as a second year player.
The reason I am so high on James Daniels is that he is a truly unique player. His athleticism at the center position is unparalleled. There really is no comparable player to him. Daniels consistently snuck up on linebackers in the 2nd level. And it’s not easy to sneak up on anybody at 06’04” 300 lbs. But Daniels is so incredibly quick to the second level that he actually ambushes linebackers. He pulls to either side with ease and he is lightning quick off the snap, paralyzing defensive tackles. He is the ultimate prototype for a zone blocking center.
Above is Daniels relative athletic score. Above 8.00 is considered elite athletically. His vertical, broad jump, shuttle, and 3 cone drill times are all ridiculous for a center. He had a better 3 cone time than Bradley Chubb! If I had to pick a comp for Daniels, the only player that would come remotely close is Jason Kelce. Kelce is currently the top center in the NFL. Coming out of college, Kelce was seen as a very unconventional center prospect, and his athletic scores were off the charts. But he hit those numbers at 280 lbs while Daniels did it at 306 lbs. This tells me that Daniels could have the higher ceiling.
Looking at how he fits into the Bears offense, Daniels is the perfect center. But I could also see how he could spend a lot of time at guard. And the reason for that is more aboot Cody Whitehair than it is aboot Daniels. While Daniels is the more athletic player suitable for the center position, he is also a better fit as a guard than Whitehair. And the discrepancy at guard could be bigger than at center. Daniels has longer arms and he’s stronger coming out of college than Whitehair. It could be wise just to keep Whitehair at his proven position.
Draft Grade: A-
Grabbing a top 15 player in the 2nd round should be an A+, but I had to deduct some points due to injury concerns.
Second Round: Anthony Miller
Trading a draft pick to move back into the second round and draft a WR in an allegedly weak class is usually a dubious decision. But there is just something aboot Anthony Miller. He seems to have this star aura that all the other WR prospects simply never had.
Anthony Miller reminds me so much of Jarvis Landry with a little more juice in his wheels. The most obvious similarity is their mindsets. Both Miller and Landry wanted to play on kickoff/punt coverages. This is not something common in starting WR’s. They both play with a huge chip on their shoulder, as though the opposing team has somehow terribly wronged them. This type of mentality should be contagious and elevate the entire offense.
As far as the tape, the first thing that stands out is Landry and Miller’s massive hands. They could both make one handed circus like catches.
Watching the film, they are both used very similarly. Both have kickoff/punt return skills, run the jet sweep, and they excel in the screen game. One glaring similarity is the fact that Anthony Miller is not afraid to cut a WR screen back into the middle of the field. You do this one too many times as a WR, and you are bound to be leveled. It’s something that Landry does consistently, and it’s something that Miller does fearlessly.
Another obvious similarity is that they both are always falling forward for extra yards as they are being tackled...
And they finish the play seeking out contact...
They both utilize their quickness to get open...
And once open, they make even the worst passes look easy...
Terrible pass 1
Terrible pass 2
Terrible pass 3
And then of course we have body control and positioning. These two dudes can contort their bodies to adjust for the balls trajectory while their bodies are in the air and the ball is in the air...
And finally, we have the clutch factor. When the game is on the line, these guys are getting the ball. Here is a critical 4th down late in the 4th quarter. The QB throws a Brock Lobster type pass, but Anthony Miller saves the Day...
And here is a 4th down in double overtime. The difficulty level of this play is at a 10...
There are only a couple of weaknesses to Miller’s game that diverge from Landry. While he is tough as nails, he is not a good blocker. And it could cause him to miss out on some snaps early on. Sometimes he just looks clueless, while other times he gets ragdolled. Here is the infamous Mike Hughes block that turned Miller into a human pinball...
And while Miller catches a lot of passes he has no business catching, he also drops some passes he has no business dropping...
All in all, Anthony Miller will be an incredibly valuable player for Mitchell Trubisky in the slot, as Trubisky was the 2nd most accurate passer in the difficult deep seam throws (Aaron Rodgers).
Overall draft grade: B
Points deducted for preexisting injury and extra draft capital used.
4th round: Joel Iyiegbuniwe
Joel grew up in Bolingbrook, and his family is from Nigeria. He’s a very smart dude, actually wants to become a doctor. There is not much tape on him, but from the highlights Joel looks very speedy and athletic. He’s good in coverage and has excellent catch up speed.
One thing that I found interesting is the fact that Western Kentucky actually used Joel at edge rusher for a good portion of his playing time. So he could have some pass rush upside. He was also a great special teamer and has the potential of becoming a special teams ace.
Overall Grade: C
The 4th round round could be a bit early to draft a small school diamond in the rough. Also, ILB was already addressed in the 1st round. This could signal a change for Kwiatkoski getting some reps at OLB.
5th Round: Bilal Nichols
Rather than go through his 2017 film, I’ll leave you with this nugget from Mike Mayock...
Basically, Nichols was used primarily as a block absorber in 2017. But looking back at his 2016 time in a different role, his explosion really shined. This has the makings of being that magical late round small school hit of a pick.
Watching Nichols in Bears training camp, Nichols looks like the biggest and strongest guy in the room. Combine that size and strength with his explosive ability, and Bilal Nichols has a very high ceiling.
This is a guy that is obviously strong enough to hold up against the run with legitimate pass rush ability. Looking at his impressive combine, his broad jump, 40 yard dash, 10 yard split, and shuttle all rival the big school 1st and 2nd rounders.
Nichols actually reminds me a bit of a former Oklahoma DT...
Overall Draft Grade: A
Under the radar small school player hidden by scheme with a great combine and east/west game. Nichols could be a steal.
6th Round: Kylie Fitts
Reading up on Fitts, he was apparently supposed to be a good pass rusher. So when watching his film, that’s what I looked for. In 2015, Fitts was in fact an up and coming pass rusher. Watching the 2015 bowl game, you could see that he had the ability to get around the edge...
2015 Pass rush 1
2015 pass rush 2
2015 pass rush 3
Fitts was injured throughout most of 2016, and going into the 2017 season he had lost something in that time. What he lost was any and all his pass rush ability. He went entire game after entire game where he didn’t get even remotely close to the QB. That first step of his was not beating any halfway decent OT, and once someone got his hands on him Fitts was done 100% of the time.
Kylie Fitts says he’s completely healthy and he had really good combine scores, but it just doesn’t show up on the tape. Most OT’s had the day off when pass blocking against Fitts in 2017. Most plays looked like a slow dance, something like this...
But Fitts is a very strong dude that I think can hold up in the run game. I see him as a Sam Acho type player playing predominantly on run downs; smart, won’t be out of position, non stop motor, won’t be pushed around.
Overall draft grade: D
Not only did the Bears wait all the way to the 6th round to pick up the crucial edge rusher, they drafted a guy that can’t get to the QB. Not an F because he could somehow regain his 2015 form.
7th Round: Javon Wims
Javon Wims is a very hard player to evaluate. He has no shortage of incredible catches. Turn on one of his highlight videos and you’d think Wims is one of the best players in all of college football. He compares favorably to Allen Robinson both physically and athletically.
So why did he drop down all the way to the 7th round? Well, it’s because he can’t create separation. He can’t get open on his own. But it actually goes much deeper than that. You see, almost all the great jump ball receivers in the NFL were knocked with the same exact flaw, creating separation. Here is the scouting report on perhaps the best jump ball receiver in the game, Mike Evans
I believe there is a razor thin line between a great jump ball wr and one that will be out of the league in a hurry. There are plenty of tall athletes who can jump really high and catch footballs. What separates the two is a minute time frame while the ball is in the air. In this fraction of a second, the greats are able to create this little bit of extra separation that cannot be quantified, but makes all the difference.Monotone mover with pedestrian speed. Cannot separate vertically or pull away from the pack. Unsudden acceleration. Stiff hips. Will have to make a living in traffic at the next level. Will struggle to separate vs. quick-twitch NFL cornerbacks.
Wims has all the tools necessary to become a legit jump ball WR in the league. Time will tell whether he has that something extra to stick.
Overall draft grade: B
Very hit or miss type of player, but upside could be huge.