Unlike last year, the Chicago Bears have received a ton of praise for their first round draft pick in 2018. Much of that has to do with the pick being far more proven this time around. Mitch Trubisky was a largely unknown commodity who started 13 total cames in college. For Roquan Smith, it was the opposite.

They don’t come more proven than the Georgia linebacker. He played and started games across three years of college. In 2017 he claimed the Dick Butkus award for best linebacker in the county and helped his team reach the national championship game. There wasn’t much else he could do to show teams he was the real deal.

The Bears didn’t overthink it. They made him the #8 overall pick to join their growing defense. He was the best player available and everybody watching knew it. There wasn’t much reason to have doubt or fault GM Ryan Pace for the selection. Most experts agreed it was a solid, safe choice. The only question left is what kind of impact he’d have as a rookie.

Projected Roquan Smith stats are hard to get mad about

The first order of business is winning a starting job. The Bears have made it clear they aren’t going to hand it to Smith. He’ll have to earn it. Nick Kwiatkoski has more experience in the Vic Fangio defense and wants it just as bad. Things are earned on this team, which is the right way to do it.

Still, expectations are he’ll end up next to Danny Trevathan come opening day. After that? Bucky Brooks, a former scout and current analyst for NFL.com offered his take on what to expect from the young linebacker.

“Smith is the most disruptive sideline-to-sideline defender on the Bears’ defense since Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher patrolled the middle of the field. The rookie is an explosive athlete. He’s a quick read-and-react defender with outstanding instincts and diagnostic skills. Chicago’s defense has made significant strides over the last two seasons, and Smith’s arrival could help the unit go from good to great in 2018…

Projected stats: 100 tackles, two sacks, two forced fumbles and an interception.”

All things considered, that’s pretty good numbers. They project higher than what Jarrad Davis did last season. The Lions linebacker was the leading tackler among all rookies. It’s worth noting the last rookie linebacker to crack 100 tackles in a season was Deion Jones in 2016 and he’s since become a Pro Bowler.

That’s certainly a good sign. To say nothing of Vic Fangio’s long history of molding inside linebackers into studs. Smith has a chance to become something special in Chicago and by these numbers, it may not take him long to get there.