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NFL Draft Profile: Nolan Smith, EDGE, Georgia Bulldogs

NFL Draft profile scouting report for Georgia EDGE Nolan Smith

Nolan Smith
georgia bulldogs logo

#4
Pos: EDGE
Ht: 6020
Wt: 235
40: 4.50
DOB: 1/18/2001
Hometown: Savannah, GA
High School: IMG Academy
Eligibility: 2023

Nolan Smith
Georgia Bulldogs


One-Liner:

Nolan Smith is an excellent athlete who is a terrorizing run defender but is a very raw pass rusher who needs to refine his hand usage.

Evaluation:

Nolan Smith is an excellent athlete who is a terrorizing run defender. It all starts with Smith’s freakish get-off, where he keys the center and times the snap very well and his explosive first step covers a lot of ground. Smith makes up for his undersized stature with great technique, playing with low pad level and consistently winning inside hand placement to stand up tackles and control the point of attack. Smith does a great job to set the edge and uses his length to stack and shed, often closing a rushing lane plus making the tackle for a stuff. He shows great understanding and execution of run defense assignments and excels on scrape exchanges, where his explosive first step and fluid hips allow Smith to contort his body and knife through a gap to penetrate. In addition, Smith has great closing burst and sideline speed, allowing him to track down horizontal runs with ease. In the passing game, Smith is an outside track rusher who wins with get-off and primarily a dip move where he can get low to the ground and bend towards the quarterback. Smith has a non-stop motor and will rack up effort sacks after multiple attempts to get off a block. Finally, as a 3-4 outside linebacker, Smith is occasionally asked to spot drop in coverage and has the athletic ability and effort to be semi-functional. Smith is an intriguing athlete but is a very raw pass rusher. He struggles to process pass sets and pair his hands to his feet which often leaves Smith in a sedentary position after his initial move doesn’t land. Smith’s hand timing and power are inconsistent, often struggling to defeat the tackle’s hands and remains locked out of the play. In addition, Smith struggles to convert speed to power, this is where his size hurts him the most - he plays with good technique, getting low, playing with inside hand placement and driving his legs, but still struggles to collapse the pocket. Nolan Smith is an excellent athlete who is a terrorizing run defender but is a very raw pass rusher who needs to refine his hand usage. The former #1 overall recruit in the country (according to 247sports) has taken a jump in 2021 and provides teams with a high floor due to his penchant for stuffing the run. He should solely be played as a 3-4 outside linebacker because of his lack of size on the edge and will need to become a more refined pass rusher to add value on passing downs. The tools are there for Smith to become an above-average starter, but he has a long way to go with his hand timing.

Grade:

3rd Round

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Background: 

Nolan Smith attended IMG Academy High School in Bradenton, Florida where he was ​​coached by Kevin Wright, was one of four finalists for the Anthony Muñoz Lineman of the Year Award and was named USA Today All-USA first team. As a senior, Smith had 47 tackles, 14.5 for a loss and 6.5 sacks which is quite impressive especially because he spent his first two years of high school also playing running back. After high school, 247Sports ranked him as a 5-Star recruit, the 1st recruit nationally, the 1st weak defensive end recruit in the country and the 1st recruit in the state of Florida. Smith committed to Georgia and appeared in all 14 games as a freshman in 2019, finishing with 18 tackles and 2.5 sacks. This earned Smith Co-winner of Defensive Newcomer of the Year. In 2020, Smith played a rotational role in all 10 games and tallied 22 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks and 20 pressures. 2021 has seen Smith transition into a starting role for all four contests and he is currently second on the team with 15 tackles, while leading the team in tackles for loss with 3.5 and adding 2.5 sacks already. Smith is self-aware of his development areas, stating in November what he’s focusing on, “Being able to separate from blocks. I just try to work on hand placement and eye discipline every day.” His coaches see that blossoming work ethic which some top recruits lack, Georgia defensive coordinator, Dan Lanning, said of Smith, “He’s really eager to learn and he’s extremely bright and smart. He’s one of those people, he signed his signing day papers and the next day after he signed he’s asking, ‘Where’s my playbook at.” Furthermore, head coach Kirby Smart says, “He motivates our guys and plays really hard. You can overcome a lot of young mistakes when you play hard and that’s what’s exciting probably about Nolan.”

Quotes: 

"Nolan Smith is now a math major. Soon to graduate. He's come back for his senior year. What an incredible personality he has. He's one of these players that pushes our team. I tell the story all the time about our players working out, as strength coaches and leaders in our organization, we don't like for our players to bend over. We feel like it shows weakness if you bend over during your runs. Nolan was screaming so loud one day at our players, I had my young 10-year-old out there, Andrew. He was trying to keep up with the players running 40s. Nolan screamed and yelled about being bent over. I was looking at Andrew, my son and he was bent over and he popped up real fast. When Nolan screams at you, you wake up quick. He demands a lot of respect in our program because of the way he works. He's from Savannah, Georgia." Georgia HC Kirby Smart on LB Nolan Smith