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2023 NFL Draft Scouting Report: Nolan Smith, EDGE, University of Georgia

Nolan Smith is regarded as a likely first round pick in the 2023 NFL draft. We break down the skillset he brings to the table here.

Nolan Smith is regarded as a likely first-round pick in the 2023 NFL draft. We break down the skillset he brings to the table here.

Nolan Smith enters draft season as a likely first round pick. The former number one overall recruit brings a lot to the table. Unfortunately, a pectoral injury ended his 2022 season after eight games, but I believe he’s showed enough over his career to still warrant a first round pick. We break down why that is the case.

The scouting report is also available in a video format here. I strongly encourage everyone to watch that video as it allows you to visualize everything I discuss in this scouting report.\

Overview

Birthdate: 1/18/2001

Height/Weight: 6-foot-3, 235 pounds

High School: IMG Academy (Bradenton, FL)

Recruit (247): 2019 Class No. 1 Natl

2022 Stats: 19 Pressures 2 Sacks 15 Stops

2022 PFF: 83.7

2021 Stats: 28 Pressures 7 Sacks 27 Stops

2021 PFF: 85.0

Strengths

  • Run Defense
    • Maintains good leverage consistently in the run game.
    • Sheds blocks very well, many examples of him completely blowing up run plays on this tape.
    • Smith’s 90.6 run defense grade in 2021 was third in the FBS amongst 496 qualified edge defenders.
    • Good pursuit as a tackler – don’t see him overrunning plays too often.
    • Does a good job of keeping contain and is athletic enough to keep ball carriers in front of him, chase them down to the outside if necessary and make the tackle
  • Power
    • Against the Run
      • Plays much bigger than his size (listed at 6-foot-3, 235 pounds).
      • Capable of overpowering OTs
      • Willing to take on pulling blockers at full force.
    • Pass Rush
      • Smith uses his power in pass rushes to get OTs off balance or out of the path of the QB
      • Utilizes the shrug move effectively – gets both of his hands on OTs arm pits out of the path to the QB
      • Many examples of him winning pass rush reps with power against quality OTs – not just beating up on lower competitive level
  • Quickness
    • Athleticism
      • Smith was the number one overall recruit in his class which makes sense as he’s someone whose athleticism is quite apparent
    • Pass Rush
      • Can win pass rushes with his speed and quickness around the edge
      • Has the explosiveness to do this at the next level, question is he’ll be able to use his hands well enough to consistently put himself in situations where he can leverage his quickness
    • Run Defense
      • Quickness/speed allows him to get across the line for tackles in run game when left unblocked
      • Risky to leave unblocked because if a back can’t find a gap and hit it quickly he’s coming quickly off the edge to make the tackle
    • Coverage
      • Capable of dropping into coverage if he needs to
      • Was asked to some at Georgia (15 coverage snaps in 2022, 71 coverage snaps in 2021)
      • Athletic enough to do it a few times a game if asked to in the NFL

Weaknesses

  • Pass Rush Production
    • Not quite as productive as a pass rusher as you may expect out of a former #1 recruit and potential first rounder
    • 10.94% pressure rate in 2021 (28 pressures on 256 pass rush snaps)
    • Went up to 18.27% in 2022 (19 pressures on 104 pass rush snaps) – but that’s a small sample size
    • Some of his lack of production can be attributed to the type of defense Georgia plays where they run a lot of creative blitzes and stunts
    • However it’s expected for first round edge rushers to win as a pass rusher more consistently than he did
    • Has all the tools to be a very good pass rusher in the NFL, question is if he’ll put it all together and win more consistently in the NFL?

Final Evaluation

Position Rank: ED3

Projection: Top 20 Pick

Smith is a player I’m relatively high on in this class.  He’s already a very good run defender and he has the tools to develop into a very good pass rusher as well.

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