Bears should eye Georgia's Nolan Smith in 2023 NFL Draft

Players That Bear Watching: Georgia's Nolan Smith originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Over the course of this football season, the focus of these player profiles revolved around likely first-round prospects. The Chicago Bears traded the No. 1 overall pick to the Carolina Panthers and now possess the ninth-overall selection in the draft.

Between now and draft day, player evaluations will be fluid as these athletes will have competed in all-star games, the NFL combine and their prospective pro days. The Bears will need to select talented players at various positions and most will come from the later rounds in the draft.

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Today’s profile focuses on a possible best player available scenario instead of the typical position of need.

Name: Nolan Smith

Position: LB/EDGE

School (Year): Georgia (Sr)

Measurables: 6’2”, 238 lbs / 4.39 40-Time / Arms 32 ⅝ / 41.5” Vertical Jump

Career Notes: Two-time National Champion [2021 & 2022]

Best Game: Big time players generally rise to the occasion when the lights are brightest and the stakes are heightened. On December 31, 2021, in the semi final college playoff game at the Capital One Orange Bowl, Smith performed impeccably. Facing a possible trip to the National Championship game, he registered eight tackles (five solo) with seven quarterback pressures and 1.5 sacks. The Georgia Bulldogs dominated the Wolverines of Michigan with an emphatic win, 34-11.


RELATED: 2023 NFL Mock Draft: What should Bears do with No. 9 pick?

What they're saying about him: “Nolan is intelligent. He’s charismatic, teammates love him, he’s passionate. He’s full of energy and he’s one of the toughest guys I’ve been around. Nolan is going to be successful at whatever he does.” - Georgia head coach Kirby Smart

Skill Set: A quintessential athlete, possessing speed, quickness, strength and a pliable agility, imbued with a balanced symmetrical core. Smith’s quick twitch athleticism generates a suddenness which helps him gain instant leverage against larger opponents. The synergy of his mind and movements keep pace with where his eyes inform, making him an excellent field general. His pre-play diagnosis and real-time reactions help him anticipate where to better position himself in order to affect plays. A sound form tackler, Smith is incredible in space making stops on even the most athletic offensive players. Extremely versatile, he can line up as an edge rusher, play any linebacking position and even serve as a coverage option on passing downs.

Why Chicago? Quite simply, the Bears need difference makers and game changers on both sides of the ball. Smith is so incredibly athletic, at times he's probably the best athlete on the field by a significant margin. At six-foot-two, 238 pounds, Smith ran a 4.39 40-time and leapt 41.5 inches in the air (vertical jump) at this year’s NFL Combine. Athletically, he can shadow receivers on underneath routes; cover running backs out of the backfield; has the size to contain tight ends across the field; and big enough to tackle whoever is carrying the ball. A creative defensive mind could employ him in innumerable ways and generate indecision amongst offensive players and coaches. In essence, he operates as a PHd (Positionless Hybrid disruptor) on the gridiron. Chicago could nurture and develop a unique athlete with a level of untapped talent waiting to be unleashed. The best part? He's an enthusiastic, charismatic personality whose  infectious team-first mentality makes him a winner on and off the field.

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