When talking about the best off-the-ball linebackers in the NFL today, plenty of names always get mentioned. Bobby Wagner, Jaylon Smith, Darius Leonard, Tremaine Edmunds, Lavonte David, C.J. Mosley, and Anthony Barr are some of those guys. Nobody talks about Roquan Smith. Seriously. Venture through top 10 or 20 lists and his name isn’t mentioned. Pro Football Focus just did a top 25 players under 25-years old earlier this month. Smith, who just turned 23, wasn’t even an honorable mention.

Here’s a kid who was an 8th overall pick in the 2018 draft. He came a handful of tackles away from the Bears’ rookie record set by Brian Urlacher in 2000 and had an interception in his first playoff game. Yet people can’t be bothered to bring his name up when talking about top young defenders in the game. That is criminal.

Smith played 12 games in 2019. Yet he still managed 101 tackles on the season. He was on pace for 134. He also had two sacks and an interception. If that weren’t enough, one could dig a little deeper and notice how incredibly efficient he was. According to Jacob Infante of Windy City Gridiron, he only missed 3.8% of his tackle attempts, the third-best among defenders with over 100 last season. Not only that, but he was also better in coverage. Quarterbacks had just a 75.9 passer rating when targeting him.

This is a complete football player.

Roquan Smith should silence a lot of critics in 2020

When talking about the Bears defense this coming year, most of the conversations start with the front seven. It might be one of the scariest in the NFL. Khalil Mack and Akiem Hicks headlines things, of course. They’re joined by newcomer Robert Quinn and big Eddie Goldman in the middle. Danny Trevathan resumes his spot as a leader at inside linebacker. Once again it’s almost like people forget Smith, a genuine Pro Bowl-caliber player, is there as well.

It feels like 2020 is going to be his year. Last season should’ve been a crowning moment heralding his ascent. The torn pectoral hit the pause button right before that happened. With that dynamic defensive line about to draw so much attention, it will be a prime opportunity for him to really take off. The ongoing disrespect only serves as added motivation.