For the third time in the last three NFL drafts, a Georgia Bulldog has been picked in the top ten as the Chicago Bears picked Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith with the No. 8 pick in the first round.
This also marks the second time in the last three years that the first SEC player taken in the draft has been an SEC player, as the Bears took Leonard Floyd with the No. 9 pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. This is the highest a Georgia played has been picked since the Cincinnati Bengals took AJ Green with the No. 4 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.
Smith is the first linebacker to come off the board, which shouldn’t be all that surprising to Georgia fans, given that he was the 2017 Butkus award winner which is given to the best linebacker in college football.
Related: 5 things to know about Roquan Smith
The Georgia linebacker led the team in tackles and sacks, which is rare given that he played primary as an off-ball linebacker. Smith was also named the MVP of the SEC Championship game and defensive MVP of the Rose Bowl, both games that Georgia won.
NFL draft expert Todd McShay thinks that Smith will thrive in the modern NFL game, where linebackers are more often asked to play coverage as opposed to just stuffing the run.
In today’s NFL, he’s a perfect fit … A lot of guys will make a tackle at the line of scrimmage that he’ll make two or three yards in the backfield,” McShay said on a conference call in the lead up to the NFL draft. “[He could be] Luke Kuechly. That kind of impact right away, and for a long time.”
Smith, along with his position coach Glenn Schumann and head coach Kirby Smart attended the draft in Dallas. And Georgia’s night might not be done, as running back Sony Michel, guard Isaiah Wynn and outside linebacker Lorenzo Carter all could potentially hear their names called on Thursday night.