Georgia Linebacker an Early Favorite for Raiders' Draft - NBC Bay Area

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Georgia Linebacker an Early Favorite for Raiders' Draft

Though it's early and mock drafts will shift in the coming weeks, standout linebacker Roquan Smith is targeted by many as a great choice for Oakland

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    Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith (No. 3) may be the most coveted linebacker in the upcoming NFL draft. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

    At this time of year, draft prognosticators are all over the board. Before the NFL combine and free agency, it’s hard to pinpoint the players a team might love.

    But for the Raiders, there’s surprising early consensus that Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith might be the best player available to make the Raiders a better team when their pick – either No. 9 or No. 10 – comes around.

    As Noel Harris of the Sacramento Bee noted recently, Smith is targeted as the Raiders’ selection by a number of analysts, including Mel Kiper Jr. of ESPN, NFL.com’s Chad Reuter, Daniel Jeremiah and Lance Zierlein, CBS Sports’ Chris Trapaso, Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller and Will Reeve Jr. of Raiderswire.

    Though things can change, that’s a lot of arrows pointing to one player who seems like the perfect fit for the Raiders.

    Smith, at 6-foot-1 and 225 pounds, is a former high school wide receiver with terrific speed and quickness that gives him great range.

    Wrote Zierlein: “Smith is an ascending linebacker prospect with elite athletic ability, plus intelligence and an ability to be an effective cover linebacker on passing downs. While he’s a little undersized, he does have the quickness and speed to keep himself from being mauled. He was good in 2016 but great in 2017 and projects as a player who hasn’t tapped his full potential. Smith has Pro Bowl traits and talent that will come off the board in the first round.”

    Though the Raiders loved the play of veteran NaVorro Bowman over the second half of the 2017 season, Kiper sees Smith as a replacement for Bowman – a possible free agent – in 2018.

    “Smith is the type of player new coach Jon Gruden loves,” wrote Kiper. "He’s physical. He can get sideline to sideline in a hurry. He’s a force in the middle.”

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