NFL, Read

NFL Draft Profile: Nolan Smith

School: Georgia

Position: EDGE

Year: Senior

The Good: Nolan Smith is a phenomenal athlete – if his 40-yard dash time of 4.39 seconds at 238lbs didn’t give that away. Smith plays to his athleticism too; you can probably count the amount of prospects on one hand who have put pass rush and coverage reps on tape as good as Smith’s. And the crazy thing is that those aren’t even the strengths of Smith’s game: he’s an incredible run defender. Smith has absurd lower body strength and contact balance – he’d routinely face linemen who outweighed him by nearly 100 pounds and I literally did not see him hit the ground once – and from there he’s masterful at shedding and splitting blocks. Smith always wins the pad level battle and he has very quick and active hands. As a pass rusher, Smith is twitchy with good footwork, and he’ll enter the NFL with some developed rush moves already in his arsenal.

The Bad: Smith is one of the more well-rounded prospects in this Draft, though there is more projection to his pass rush than the other phases of his game. Part of that is because of Georgia’s laughable dominance and depth that would keep Smith out of the rotation on some passing downs, but he does have personal room for improvement too. Despite his speed, Smith’s get-off is often delayed and should be better synced with snap timings. Smith just needs more ferocity as a pass rusher in general too; even if he’s not running through anyone at his size, Smith should be better at finishing than his quantifiable production at Georgia: 12.5 sacks in 63 career games.

The Bottom Line: I’m a massive Nolan Smith fan, and even if it’s his Combine performance that’s rocketing him up Draft boards when his tape warranted that beforehand – so be it. His skillset is unique and dynamic enough to predict 100% snap counts in the NFL, likely best in the old-school mold of a 4-3 OLB but more than fine as a modern-day EDGE as well. It seems like Micah Parsons is going to become one of those impossible-standard names that scouts and analysts say “he’s the next [blank]” about for years to come, and yet, just two years after Parsons’ Draft, Smith is actually a decent candidate. I wouldn’t go that far, mainly because Smith won’t induce fear as a pass rusher in the way that Parsons does, but Smith could have a similar type of all-around impact as the do-it-all tone setter of a good defense. 

Grade: Top 10 Pick

Pro Comp: Joey Porter

Games Watched:

  • Clemson 2021
  • Kentucky 2021
  • Oregon 2022
  • South Carolina 2022
  • Missouri 2022

Plays That Matter [LINK]


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