2023 NFL Draft Scouting Report: Nolan Smith

  • Nolan Smith, 6-2/238

  • Defensive End

  • Georgia

  • Nolan Smith Scouting Report
    By Charlie Campbell

  • Dangerous pass rusher
  • Explosive off the snap
  • Excellent first-step quickness
  • Hard charger upfield
  • Tough
  • Plays hard
  • Good motor
  • Will use his active hands to keep blockers away from him
  • Has some functional power
  • Good move to the inside
  • Good football character
  • Willing run defender
  • Run-and-chase run defender
  • Has a burst to close when running free
  • Has some experience in pass coverage in the flat

  • Weaknesses:
  • Lacks size
  • Lacks height
  • Can have issues getting of blocks
  • Not a good fit in a 4-3 defense
  • Too undersized for DE
  • Limited as an OLB

  • Summary: Smith was a star recruit coming out of high school, and he became a tough defender for a Georgia defense that carried the program to back-to-back National Championships. While playing in a heavy rotation in 2020, he recorded 22 tackles and 2.5 sacks. Smith then had his best season for the Bulldogs in 2021, picking up 55 tackles, 3.5 sacks, one interception and three forced fumbles. In 2022, Smith dealt with injuries, recording 18 tackles, three sacks and a pass batted over his eight-game season. At the end of October, Smith went out for the season with a torn pectoral muscle. Smith helped himself at the 2023 NFL Scouting Coming with an electric performance in which he blazed a shocking 4.39-second time in the 40-yard dash.

    As a pass rusher, Smith has a serious burst off the ball to work upfield and a first-step that routinely makes him the first player out of his stance from either line. With his speed and athleticism, Smith is dangerous to fly around the corner and get quick pressure on the quarterback. Smith flashes some speed to power, getting offensive tackles on their heels and then using a strong chop to keep them from getting a hold of him. However, Smith lacks size and can have issues getting off blocks. He never had a season of good production at Georgia, and his lack of length and weight could be a bigger problem in the NFL.

    Smith is a tough run defender considering he weighs less than 240 pounds. He flashes the ability to get off blocks and flow to the ball-carrier. With good vision and diagnosis skills, Smith reads plays well and then shows a burst to close ground in a hurry. In the NFL, Smith will need to get better at defending downhill runs coming straight at him. However, his lack of length and weight is always going to be problematic versus tackles who have a 60- to 100-pound advantage over him.

    Smith lacks the height and length to be a three-down starter at defensive end in the NFL. That limits him as a run defender and could make him more of a designated pass rusher as a pro. For the next level, Smith’s best fit could come as a 3-4 outside linebacker. He lacks the size and length to be a 4-3 defensive end on an every-down basis. For a 4-3, he would have to move to Sam – strongside – outside linebacker and rush as a defensive end in the sub package. In the NFL, Smith might settle into a role as a sub-package designated pass-rusher.

    In the 2023 NFL Draft, Smith has the potential to go as high as the middle of the first round. He should not go lower than early in Round 2.

    Player Comparison: Haason Reddick. Smith compared well with Reddick as an edge rusher. Reddick (6-1, 240) and Smith are almost identical in size and possess explosive speed off the edge. They both have built-up strength in their frames, but they always have to be used specifically and limited to certain roles because they lack size, length and weight. Reddick was a first-round pick in 2017, and Smith could go in the first round this year during the 2023 NFL Draft.


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