Linebacker Boards in Flux

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Tony Pauline

Draft Analyst Writer

As the draft draws near, word will inevitably get out on players moving up and down draft boards. Today we start with the latest word at the linebacker position.

The belief on the outside is that Tremaine Edmunds will be the first linebacker selected in the draft, likely piercing the initial 10 slots. And while Edmunds is still expected to be a top-10 selection, he may not be the first linebacker selected.

That honor may ultimately go to Roquan Smith.

After speaking with several people over the past few days, it seems Smith is the fastest-rising linebacker and is moving north up boards as teams gather for final meetings.

How early could Smith go?

During our two-round mock draft posted on Monday, I mentioned that the Indianapolis Colts love Roquan Smith. I can tell you the team would like to move down a few slots from the sixth pick to select him. This goes hand in hand with something I mentioned during the Senior Bowl -- the Colts were looking to trade down in the draft and come away with three linebackers from their collection of picks. 

While Edmunds has a decided size and power advantage, next-level decision makers love Smith’s ability to chew up ground quickly and move sideline to sideline with greater speed. It should be noted that more teams are slotting Edmunds as a strong-side linebacker, while they feel Smith is a multi-scheme linebacker who can play on the inside or outside.

Leighton Vander Esch of Boise State is not far behind Smith and Edmunds and should be off the board by the 20th selection.

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One final note on Smith.

During the combine, I mentioned that Smith and his teammate Lorenzo Carter had been medically red-flagged by a few teams based on previous injury history. This seems to have morphed into a beast of its own, with many claiming I stated Smith has serious medical issues and failed exams. Here’s the exact passage from Day 6 at the combine:

“Lorenzo Carter and Roquan Smith of Georgia both had terrific combine workouts. Carter, who I’ve always believed was a first-round talent, ran under 4.5 in the 40, bested everyone in his group with a broad jump of 10-foot-10 and posted a vertical jump of 39.5 inches. Roquan Smith ran 4.51 and will do the rest of the drills at his pro day. I have been informed both players were red-flagged medically by a number of teams due to past injury history. While I don’t expect the medical evaluations to be a drag on the draft stocks of Carter and Smith, it is something likely to be part of the debate on draft day when each player is being considered.”

Medical grades differ from team to team and are subjective; what one team views as an issue, other teams will have no problem with.