What are the chances of the Green Bay Packers selecting a defensive player from Georgia in the first round for the third consecutive NFL draft?
Daniel Jeremiah’s first mock draft of the 2023 cycle has the Packers taking Georgia edge rusher Nolan Smith at No. 15 overall.
If selected by the Packers in April, Smith would follow in the footsteps of 2021 first-round pick Eric Stokes and 2022 first-round picks Quay Walker and Devonte Wyatt on the path from Athens to Green Bay.
“Smith had his season cut short by injury, but he’s shown enough promise in his career to warrant top-15 consideration. He has elite burst and change of direction. Expect him to garner some comparisons to Pro Bowler Haason Reddick,” Jeremiah wrote.
Smith produced 21 tackles for loss, 11.5 sacks and three forced fumbles while playing on a star-studded Bulldogs defense.
It’s worth noting that Smith is coming off a torn pectoral muscle. The injury ended his senior season after eight games.
Smith currently ranks No. 9 on the big board at Pro Football Focus. His draft profile at PFF can be viewed here.
Brennen Rupp of Packers Wire noted his athleticism as a pass-rusher but also his lack of ideal size, which the Packers generally covet at edge rusher.
“Smith is an explosive edge rusher with the speed to win the corner,” Rupp said. “Although he’s undersized (235 pounds) he plays with surprising power. He holds his own against the run and is strong at the point of attack.
His weight may keep him off Green Bay’s board but never say never. By all accounts, he’s a high-character guy and he’d bolster Green Bay’s pass rush with his first step quickness.”
The Packers may see a long-term need at edge rusher considering the age and future of Preston Smith. Green Bay is also counting on Rashan Gary to come back from a major knee injury suffered in Week 9. Down the stretch in 2022, rookie Kingsley Enagbare started seven games opposite Smith at edge rusher.