MIAMI GARDENS, FLORIDA - DECEMBER 31: Nolan Smith #4 of the Georgia Bulldogs forces Cade McNamara #12 of the Michigan Wolverines to fumble during the third quarter in the Capital One Orange Bowl for the College Football Playoff semifinal game at Hard Rock Stadium on December 31, 2021 in Miami Gardens, Florida.

Will Nolan Smith end up in Midnight Green on draft night? While a defensive end is perhaps not the biggest need for the Eagles you can never rule it out. Last week we looked at Clemson Interior Linaman Bryan Bresee. You can check out his prospect profile here. We know the Eagles love spending first-round picks on the guys in the trenches. Whether it is on offense or defense. In fact, 8 of their last 12 first-round picks were spent on an offensive or defensive lineman. Five on Defensive Ends or Defensive Tackles, and 3 on Offensive Tackles or Guards. That trend continued last year with Georgia’s Jordan Davis.  

But this year it could be a different Georgian defender on the Eagles radar. A certain edge rusher who made quite a name for himself this past week at the NFL Combine. The Eagles already added two Bulldogs to their defense in last year’s draft. Will they continue to poach from the back-to-back National Champions? Like his former teammate Jordan Davis, Nolan Smith had a big day at the combine. There are certain to be a lot of eyeballs on Nolan Smith now. He put up big numbers at the combine. 

His Senior season at Georgia was ended early after a pectoral tear. So we did not get to see him play in the National Championship game again. But he is clearly healthy now. And with the Eagles’ love for adding pass rushers early in the draft, Nolan Smith is a name Eagles fans have to watch. Just how much of an athletic freak is he? Will he even be there for the Eagles after his Combine performance? Does that athleticism actually show up on tape? Let’s get to know the former number 1 recruit in college a little better. Here are 5 things you should know about DE Nolan Smith.  

  • A Big Day At The Combine

    Every year there is one guy who put himself back on the map at the NFL combine. This year, it was Nolan Smith. His 4.39 40 time was first among defensive linemen. It is even faster than what Saquon Barkley ran at his combine. And it is also the 2nd fastest time by a defensive lineman, narrowly beating out Montez Sweat by .02 seconds. Plus at 238 lbs, he is the heaviest player to run a sub 4.4 40. Dk Metcalf comes in at 2 in that category. He also had the highest vertical of all defensive linemen at the combine (41.50”) and the 3rd best Broad Jump (10’8”).  

    Smith’s Athletic profile is by far the most attractive thing about him as an NFL prospect. Like many combine stars before him, his performance will offer a boost to his stock. Think Dontari Poe, Henry Ruggs, and Montez Sweat. But don’t mistake him for just a workout warrior. While the college production was not there, we will get to that later, his athleticism and speed absolutely shows up on the tape. 

  • Former Number 1 Recruit

    There was a lot of hype for Smith coming out of High School. In fact, he was the top recruit in the nation. Over the course of 15 games at Calvary Day School, he racked up 10.5 sacks, a forced fumble, and an interception. He was the man coming out of High School. Not just the number one recruit in the nation, but 247sports had him as the 20th best prospect of all time, comparing him to Khalil Mack.  

    Smith has been hyped up as a prospect for a long time. It is why he wound up at Georgia, and why he played such a prominent role there from early on. The question is, has he lived up to that hype?  

  • The Production Has Not Been There

    The ability is there. We know he has the athletic prowess to be a force. Unfortunately, it has not been translated into production on the field. He racked up just 17 sacks across 4 seasons at Georgia, despite being a starter for a lot of that time. Smith had just 2 sacks this past year.  Over that same time period, he had 48 QB pressures in 46 games. For a guy who projects as a pass rush specialist, he has not generated enough of a pass rush.  

    What makes it more concerning is that he is only generating this much of a rush despite playing on a very deep D-Line. Last year saw Georgia DT Travon Walker go first overall, and DT Jordan Davis got 13th overall. This year, you could make a case Jalen Carter is the most talented player in the draft.  

    He has played on a stacked D Line. We saw this year with the Eagles that playing with other talented D-Linemen only makes you better because it means it is that much harder to block everyone. But even with all that help, he still had bad production. You can look at his skillset and say there is a high ceiling there. But you can also look at his production and say if he can’t get it done in college, why would it be any different in the NFL?  

    Scouts say he lacks pass-rush moves and relies too much on his speed. The problem is there are some very quick Offensive Tackles and Guards now in the NFL. If he can’t beat guys with his speed, he currently lacks the technique to beat them in other ways. 

  • A True Leader, Even When He Isn't Playing

    Nolan Smith was elected a Team Captain for Georgia last year. And according to Kirby Smart, he was the leading vote-getter. In many ways, he replaced Nakobe Dean as the leader of the defense. But he really earned that title after his season-ending injury. Smith could have easily walked away, and prepped for the draft. But Smart convinced him to stay. And while he could not have an impact off the field, Smart will tell you he had a large impact on the sidelines. 

    “I told him, the Ohio State win, about 20 percent of that win goes to him because he was over on that sideline never doubting, and just kept preaching. It’s little things like that that make a difference in a team.”- Kirby Smart in a Press Conference

    (Source: Sports Illustrated) 

    Like Nakobe Dean before him, Nolan Smith comes into the draft with a leadership pedigree. While of course what happens on the field is most important, there is value in adding someone who can also help those around him be better. One of the reasons the Eagles have had success over the years is strong team leadership. Look at Jalen Hurts, Jason Kelce, and Brandon Graham. They all add value beyond what they do as individuals on the field. Smith can do that too. 

  • A Bit Small for an Edge Rusher

    One of the things that may contribute to his low production a pass rush and a run stopper, is his size. 238 lbs is small for an edge rusher. Look at most of the best Edge rushers around the league, and they are in the 270+ range. Which makes sense given they are competing with 300LB Offensive tackles every play. Nick Bosa is 266 lbs. Myles Garret is 272 lbs. JJ Watt is 288 lbs.  

    In fact, only two players under 250lbs racked up double digits sacks last year. Josh Uche from the Patriots, and of course Haason Reddick.  

    So it is not impossible for a smaller guy to succeed at rushing the passer. But it is rare. And if he adds that weight, would he still be the twitchy athlete that makes him so intriguing to begin with? It is not a death sentence to his career. But it is certainly an obstacle. He will say that he has been hearing he is too small since high school. But given his production did that transfer to college, it is a legitimate concern.  

  • 5 Things to Know About Devon Witherspoon- Eagles Prospect Profile

    5 Things to Know About Devon Witherspoon- Eagles Prospect Profile
  • 5 Things to Know About DT Bryan Bresee- Eagles Prospect Profile

    5 Things to Know About DT Bryan Bresee- Eagles Prospect Profile

Sign me up for the 97.5 The Fanatic email newsletter!

Become a Fanatic MVP to get the latest info on the Philly Sports landscape, plus access to exclusive content and member-only contests.

By clicking "Subscribe" I agree to the website's terms of Service and Privacy Policy. I understand I can unsubscribe at any time.