Nolan Smith NFL Draft 2023: Scouting Report for Georgia Edge
40-YARD DASH: TBD
— On passing downs, he times up the snap well and has good acceleration off the ball to win with speed.
— Works to get to square during the stem phase of a rush to give himself a two-way go and has a nice hesitation/skip move to win around the edge.
— Impressive change of direction and quickness to win with inside and outside stick moves, especially if he can be more consistent with his use of hands. He did get more accurate with his hands from year-to-year, showing growth in that area.
— Good bend to turn a tight corner and take an efficient path to the quarterback after winning around the edge.
— When slanting against the run, he covers so much ground laterally that he doesn't have to tip it with pre-snap alignment. He throws off the offensive lineman's angle while simultaneously dipping his shoulder to reduce the surface area to block, getting the lineman off-balance so he can get penetration.
— Physical at the point of attack and has pop in his hands to get extension and shed blocks from offensive tackles fairly easily. He's violent when shedding and has shown flashes of using his quickness to defeat blocks, too.
— Can set the edge versus outside zone or as the force player against pullers on power and counter.
— Takes on blocks with a wide base and is stronger than his 235-pound frame would suggest to hold his ground versus offensive tackles.
— Form tackler, good pad level, wraps up and runs his feet through contact. He's not going to miss many tackles.
— His get-off is much slower and more deliberate on running downs, which makes it more difficult for him to win around the edge if the offense does pass and leads to a slower run-pass transition versus play action.
— Doesn't have a ton of power behind his bull rush and doesn't work to get on an edge to collapse the pocket against offensive tackles.
— Needs to be more consistent with the accuracy of his hand swipes when starting pass-rush moves.
— Not very effective in line games as the looper or penetrator. He could afford to push vertical more on the tackle to help sell the game.
— Could afford to add some weight to help him hold ground against base blocks from the bigger and elite NFL offensive tackles.
— Didn't look comfortable dropping into coverage. He'd often cover grass in zone coverage and would struggle to stay in phase versus tight ends in man.
— DOB: Jan. 18, 2001
— A 5-star recruit in the 2019 class, No. 1 overall, No. 1 WDE, per 247Sports composite rating .
— Injuries: 2021 (elbow, missed one game), 2022 (torn pec, season-ending surgery and missed every game after Week 9)
— Arrested for driving with a suspended license and speeding through a construction zone (misdemeanor) in January 2022, completed pre-trail diversion program in lieu of formal conviction
— 23 career starts
— 2022 Honors: Second-team preseason All-American (Athlon Sports)
— 2021 Honors: Two-time SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Week (Weeks 3 and 9)
— 2019 Honors: Georgia's Co-Defensive Newcomer of the Year
For someone who is only listed at 235 pounds, Nolan Smith is a lot stronger than you'd think and is surprisingly a better run defender than pass-rusher. He gets extension against offensive linemen pretty easily and will occasionally have them falling on their faces with how violent he is when shedding.
Smith might have a tougher time holding up against the bigger and more physical offensive tackles at the next level with his lean frame, but he has plenty of room for growth to add 10 to 15 pounds.
He can also be lethal when slanting with how quick and agile he is to throw off blockers' angels and get penetration. Long story short, he has very few flaws against the run and has the upside to be even better with some added mass.
However, he's certainly a run-first player, which has a distinct impact on his get-off in rushing situations. He's likely going to have trouble with pressure on first and second downs as he won't be able to win with speed getting off the ball so late and struggles to collapse the pocket as a bull-rusher.
The Georgia product does have a few traits and moves in his pass-rush arsenal that he can win with on passing downs, though. He sets up his stick moves well by getting to square and giving himself a two-way go, and he has the bend to turn tight corners when winning around the edge. Working on the consistency of his use of hands to defeat the offensive lineman's hands will allow him to grow in that department.
Schematically, Smith's weight might be an issue for an even-front team that's looking for a more traditional, hand-in-the-ground defensive end. But if a team thinks they'll be able to add size to his frame in their weight program, he's strong and physical enough as it is to get the job done. However, recovering from a torn pec might scare some of these teams off.
He could play as a standup outside linebacker on odd fronts, too. That's closer to how he was used in college, but he wasn't the best in coverage which could be an issue in that scheme at the next level. That being said, he does have good athleticism to flush that part of his game out.
GRADE: 8.2 (Year 1 Starter)
OVERALL RANK: 14
POSITION RANK: EDGE3
PRO COMPARISON: Melvin Ingram
Written by B/R NFL Draft Scout Matt Holder