2023 NFL Draft Scouting Report

Nolan Smith

February 16, 2023 1:00 PM EST

Nolan Smith Scouting Report picture

School: Georgia

Height: 6'3"

Weight: 235

Eligibility: SR

Uniform: #4

Position: LB

Evaluated by: Sam Teets
Twitter: Sam_Teets33
December 17, 2022

Prospect Overview

2022: 8 games
2021: 14 games
2020: 10 games
2019: 14 games

Smith was a five-star recruit from IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. in the class of 2019. He was the No. 1 recruit according to 247Sports, No. 2 for Rivals, and No. 1 for On3.com. ESPN ranked him 2nd in the nation with a 92 grade out of 100.

Nolan Smith Scouting Report image 1

Smith transferred to IMG Academy after two seasons at Calvary Day in Georgia. As a high school senior, he tallied 47 tackles, 6.5 sacks, and 14.5 tackles for a loss. As a junior, Smith amassed 41 tackles, four sacks, ten tackles for loss, a forced fumble, two fumble recoveries, an interception, and a blocked punt.

In his sophomore year at Calvary Day, the Georgia native totaled 75 tackles, 27 quarterback hurries, 12 sacks, 16 tackles for loss, three forced fumbles, a fumble recovery, and a blocked punt. Smith also played running back that season, leading Calvary Day with 712 rushing yards. He scored 12 total touchdowns.

As a senior, Smith earned All-USA First-Team honors from USA Today. In 2016, he was an All-State Class A-Private First-Team selection for the Georgia Sports Writers Association and a Sophomore All-American Second-Team defensive selection for MaxPreps. Smith committed to Georgia over offers from Alabama, Clemson, Florida, Florida State, LSU, Miami, South Carolina, Tennessee, and other Power 5 programs.

Smith earned his first start as a Bulldog in 2020, but he didn't become a regular starter until 2021. He started 23 games with Georgia before a torn right pectoral muscle ended his senior season. Through his eight appearances in 2022, Smith nearly set a career high by producing pressure on roughly 18.3% of his pass rushing snaps. His career best was 21.9% in 2020.

Despite playing four seasons of college football, Smith only has roughly 1,150 defensive snaps to his name. He hasn't received any notable national honors during his collegiate career. Smith finished fifth in tackles (53), third in tackles for loss (eight), sixth in sacks (4.5), and first in forced fumbles (three) on Georgia's 2021-22 national championship team.

Nolan Smith Scouting Report image 2


Smith is unofficially listed at 6'3", 235 lbs. He applied pressure on roughly 21.9% of his pass rush attempts in 2020, 10.9% in 2021, and 18.3% in 2022. Smith has experience rushing from two and three-point stances, but he appears most comfortable playing in a two-point stance. He has special teams experience on the kick return, kick coverage, punt return, punt coverage, and field goal block units and plays with an elite motor.

The former five-star recruit displays high-end play strength throughout his frame. His arm length is adequate but not elite by NFL standards. Smith possesses above-average agility and change of direction skills and displays lateral bounce to shift between gaps. He has the speed and slender build to shoot gaps. There were several instances in 2022 when Smith's explosiveness and lateral agility allowed him to cross a tackle's face in the run game while barely being touched.

Smith is explosive when he times the snap correctly and doesn't appear to suffer from much stiffness. He has the athleticism to cover the flat and gain the necessary depth in zone drops. Missed tackles are rare for the Georgia native. Smith's closing burst helps him chase down near-side run plays and makes tackles in pursuit. He uses his speed to make plays as a backside run defender.

Smith's surprising play strength helps him set a hard edge against the run. He even deadens pulling guards despite giving 70 or 80 pounds to his opponents. Smith deploys his hands early in the rep and they remain active throughout his rush. He does a good job attacking the tackle's hands. His powerful hands and arms pack pop and help him punch above his weight class.

As a pass rusher, Smith pushes upfield before ducking in to attack the tackle's inside shoulder. He also threatens inside rush lanes immediately off the snap. The senior slips off blocks and redirects to the football. He primarily wins as a pass rusher with swipes, a push-pull move, his athletic advantage, and relentless motor.

Areas for Improvement

Smith is an undersized edge rusher who lacks elite arm length and only posted modest production in college. He never played more than 500 defensive snaps or totaled more than 30 pressures in a season. It's unlikely Smith will add more mass at the next level. His frame looks tapped out.

Smith is athletic but not prepared for a large role in coverage. He looks lost in zone drops and struggles to stick with man coverage assignments. He is sometimes half a second late off the line and doesn't consistently gain separation from blocks.

As a pass rusher, Smith plays through linemen instead of around them. He lacks a developed pass rush plan and doesn't have many true pass rush moves or counters at his disposal. The Georgia star doesn't frequently attempt or display bend off the edge and doesn't win in the half-man element of the pass rush. He can't convert speed to power against legitimate competition.

Smith's rush gets too far upfield, compromising the defense's gap integrity. His hands need to be more precise and coordinated to create an advantage consistently.

Smith is physically a finished product, but he's failed to fill out the technical part of his game. Projecting technical development is always difficult since it relies on many unknown factors, such as quality NFL and private coaching, work ethic, health, and in-game opportunities.

Nolan Smith Scouting Report image 3

Draft Stock

Smith is an undersized edge rusher with unique play strength and athleticism, which he uses to dominate in the run game. However, he lacks development as a pass rusher despite spending four seasons with the Bulldogs. Smith's physical limitations as a pass rusher and concerns about long-term durability prevent him from earning a first round grade.

Many teams may decide to avoid Smith considering his potential "tweener" status and lack of polish. This is a deep edge class that offers many alternatives to the Georgia senior. NFL teams looking for alternative solutions at outside linebacker near the back end of the first round or top of the second could side with Isaiah Foskey or BJ Ojulari.

Other edge rushers who could go ahead of Smith include Will Anderson Jr., Felix Anudike-Uzomah, Derick Hall, Zach Harrison Myles Murphy, Tuli Tuipulotu, Jared Verse, and Tyree Wilson.

Considering the depth of this edge class, Smith projects as a mid second to early third round selection. He should hear his name called somewhere between picks 45 and 70. There's a chance he receives consideration for a first round pick considering his rare athletic traits, but he lacks the immediate pass rush upside offered by many of this year's other top edge rushers.

Smith could make the second round evaluations look silly if he goes to a team with quality coaching and a clearly defined plan for the rookie. In the right situation, Smith will be an impact every-down outside linebacker by his second season.

Nolan Smith Scouting Report image 4

Player Comparison

Smith shares some similarities with former Temple pass rusher Haason Reddick. The Pro Bowl edge rusher went 13th overall to the Arizona Cardinals in the 2017 NFL Draft after amassing 22.5 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks in his final college campaign. However, it took three years of development and changing positions before Reddick became one of the league's most productive pass rushers.

Over the past three years, Reddick has more than 35 sacks with at least 11 in each year. His most recent teams (Carolina and Philadelphia) don't use him at linebacker or in coverage nearly as much as Arizona. When healthy, Reddick plays roughly 850 defensive snaps per year and makes his most significant impact as a pass rusher.

Smith and Reddick share several traits. They're exceptional athletes who are undersized for their positions. Their lack of size and low snap counts raise questions regarding their long-term viability as edge defenders. However, their change of direction skills, fluid frames, and ability to slip blocks indicate high upside.

Reddick represents the high-end projection on Smith's scale as a pass rusher, although the Georgia star already displays better play strength than the 2017 draft selection did during his time at Temple. Smith is also a much better run defender and tackler than Reddick ever was in college. On the other hand, Reddick is a more versatile player than Smith, displayed better bend in college, and brought a better production profile to his pre-draft process.

Tyus Bowser was also in consideration as a possible comparison for Smith, but the Georgia product is more balanced and physical than the former Houston star.

Games Evaluated

  • Clemson (2021)
  • Kentucky (2021)
  • Michigan (2021)
  • Alabama (2021, CFP)
  • Oregon (2022)
  • South Carolina (2022)
  • Missouri (2022)

Scouting Video Courtesy of Prince Highlights

Scouting Reports Link
Zach Harrison Link
Nolan Smith Link
Luke Musgrave Link
Mike Morris Link
Tre'Vius Hodges-Tomlinson Link
Emmanuel Forbes Link
Clark Phillips Link
Jahmyr Gibbs Link
Tyree Wilson Link
Isaiah Foskey Link
Peter Skoronski Link
C.J. Stroud Link
Bryce Young Link
Jermaine Johnson II Link
Trey McBride Link
Kenny Pickett Link
Evan Neal Link
Aidan Hutchinson Link
Kayvon Thibodeaux Link
Sam Howell Link
Spencer Rattler Link
Caleb Farley Link
Jaylen Waddle Link
Christian Darrisaw Link
Kadarius Toney Link
Zach Wilson Link
Daviyon Nixon Link
Samuel Cosmi Link
Micah Parsons Link
Ja'Marr Chase Link
Penei Sewell Link
Trevor Lawrence Link
Tylan Wallace Link
Kyle Pitts Link
Justin Fields Link
Seth Williams Link
Chuba Hubbard Link
Travis Etienne Link
Walker Little Link
Tua Tagovailoa Link
Jeffrey Okudah Link
Albert Okbuegbunam Link
Tee Higgins Link
Jalen Hurts Link
Austin Jackson Link
Curtis Weaver Link
Javon Kinlaw Link
Derrick Brown Link
Tyler Biadasz Link
D'Andre Swift Link
Shaquille Quarterman Link
Isaiah Simmons Link
C.J. Henderson Link
Grant Delpit Link
Tristan Wirfs Link
Andrew Thomas Link
A.J Epenesa Link
Chase Young Link
Jerry Jeudy Link
CeeDee Lamb Link
Kyler Murray Link
Nick Bosa Link
Clelin Ferrell Link
Jawaan Taylor Link
T.J. Hockenson Link
Noah Fant Link
Andre Dillard Link
Nasir Adderley Link
Dexter Lawrence Link
Rashan Gary Link
Damien Harris Link
Rodney Anderson Link
Marquise Brown Link
D. K. Metcalf Link
Dwayne Haskins Link
Deionte Thompson Link
Jachai Polite Link
Greedy Williams Link
Jarrett Stidham Link
Drew Lock Link
Justin Herbert Link