2023 NFL Draft: Nolan Smith scouting report
Yet another talented edge rusher from the elite Georgia defense, Nolan Smith will look to prove he is as good as the other Bulldog defenders drafted before him. Smith hopes to get selected just as highly as he enters the 2023 NFL draft.
Here is everything you need to know about the ultra-athletic Bulldogs’ defender
Off the jump, it is clear that Nolan Smith is immensely talented, with a height/weight/speed combination that is rare to find coming into the league. While he did not blow up the stat sheet by any means, he was a key contributor to the dominant back-to-back national champion Georgia defense despite missing the conclusion of the 2022 season with a torn pec. In his limited time last season, he wracked up three sacks and nineteen total pressures.
As a pass rusher, Smith uses his next-level speed to scream into offensive linemen and has enough bend to slip by blockers for immediate pressure. He does not have a wide pass-rushing toolbox, but he makes up for that with the ability to overwhelm with pure speed, strength, and flexibility. While he is not fully developed as a pass rusher, there are clear signs of potential in his unreal speed for his size and frame that will be up to the right team to unlock.
As a run defender Smith shines through, using that same combination of speed and strength to attack through offensive linemen and wrap up ball carriers. He excels in using his length to pry into blockers and disengages at a high level to dart into running lanes and shut down running attacks. Smith navigates through blocking assignments as well and is persistent in his pursuit of the ball carrier. He adds an additional layer in pass coverage as well, where his speed and length take over once more; Smith can fairly reliably drop into coverage with backs and tight ends.
It is a bit concerning that a player with Smith’s athletic profile never exploded onto the stat sheet, especially with four years of experience. He is overly reliant on outright talent to win matchups and lacks a versatile pass rush toolbox that he will need to be a dominant edge rusher in the NFL. He will need to get with coaches and seriously develop better ways to attack the pocket and gain counters that he currently lacks.
There is also some concern over his frame. Smith is quite thin to be playing against bigger offensive linemen, and while he was not swallowed up in college by any means, there is a possibility of that happening with the bigger and better athletes in the NFL. There is also an inherent injury risk as well with Smith coming off a pec injury. He will need to work with trainers to fill out his frame and add some play strength while he is at it.
The temptation in taking a player like Nolan Smith lies in his size, speed, and athleticism. There are not many human beings walking around that look like him that can do the things he does from an athletic standpoint, and it is worth the risk should he develop into maximizing those gifts. While not the most gifted of pass rushers, he can certainly get there eventually given his talent pool, and he is solid in run defense and pass coverage already. Teams will be betting big that they can unlock the talent of Smith, who has yet to emerge as the top pass rusher his athletic charts say he can be.
Projection: Top 40 Pick