Roquan Smith

(Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports)

Bears Draft Georgia LB Roquan Smith

April 26, 2018 - 6:45 pm

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- The Chicago Bears selected Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith Thursday evening with the eighth pick in the NFL Draft, in a bid to strengthen the team's defense.

The 6-foot-225-pound Smith has primarily played inside linebacker for the Bulldogs. Smith was a unanimous 2017 First Team All-American, the SEC Defensive Player of the Year and winner of the Butkus Award, presented annually to the nation’s most outstanding linebacker. 

"I feel my skillset is rare. I think I’m a rangy guy, sideline to sideline. I can put my facemask on you. I feel like I can do a lot of things, and this opportunity that I have to showcase all of my abilities and my IQ and knowledge of the game I feel like is on another level," the 21-year-old Smith said in a conference call Thursday evening.

The Georgia native stayed in his home state to play college football after being named the Class AA Defensive Player of the Year by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution as a high school senior. 

He led the Bulldogs on the season with 137 tackles, 6.5 sacks, 14.0 tackles-for-loss and 20 QBH. Georgia reached the national championship, where it fell to Alabama. Smith had 13 tackles in that contest.

"I took a lot of pride in just being the best teammate that I could be. Always being there for my teammates, regardless of the circumstances," Smith said.

Smith is the second linebacker selected in the first round by the Bears in the past three years. He joins LB Leonard Floyd, another University of Georgia alum, who was selected No. 9 overall in 2016. Smith said he's looking forward to joining his fellow Bulldog.

"Leonard Floyd, I looked up to the guy a lot coming from Georgia. He was an older guy, a redshirt junior when I was a freshman. It was definitely big looking up to him. I was a young big-eyed freshman and seeing this guy here who was pretty special and watching him go 9th overall to the Chicago Bears. I’m beyond excited right now," Smith said.

Bears General Manager Ryan Pace said Smith is fast and hard-hitting.

"He's everything you're looking for in a player," Pace told reporters at Halas Hall in Lake Forest late Thursday.

2018 is the first season under Bears Head Coach Matt Nagy.