Drafted: ROUND: 1 - Pick Number: 30 (PHI)
Draft Profile: BioNolan Smith from IMG Academy High School was rated a 5-star recruit by ESPN and handed a 5-star grade by 247 Sports. After high school, Smith joined Georgia after being heavily recruited.
In 2019 as a freshman Smith saw action in 14 games and played a total of 287 snaps for the Bulldogs. He recorded just 8 tackles, 5 assists, while adding 13 stops. As a pass rusher, he added 19 total pressures, which included 10 QB hurries, 4 QB hits, and a solid a solid 5 sacks on the season.
As a sophomore for the Bulldogs in 2020 Smith played in 10 games and took part in 180 snaps for the Bulldogs. He recorded 11 tackles, 8 assists, while adding 10 stops. As a pass rusher, he chalked up 18 total pressures, and 11 QB hurries, 4 QB hits, and 3 sacks during the year.
In 2021 as a junior Smith played in 14 games and contributed on 499 snaps. He recorded 32 tackles, 11 assists while making 27 stops. In coverage, Smith chalked up no pass breakups, one interception, and an impressive QB rating when targetted of 68.8. As a pass rusher, he produced 28 total pressures, which included 18 QB hurries, 3 QB hits, and a solid 7 sacks on the year.
In 2022 as a senior Smith's season was cut short after he suffered a torn pec, but still started 8 games and logged a total of 188 snaps for the Bulldogs. He also added 14 tackles, 6 assists, and 15 stops. As a pass rusher, he tallied 19 total pressures, which included 12 QB hurries, 5 QB hits, and 2 sacks on the season.
Honors & awards2022
- Started at LB in eight games and had 18 total tackles and a team-high 16 QB hurries before going down with an injury in the Florida game
- Three tackles, one for lost yardage, in win over Auburn
- Had two unassisted tackles and a team-high three QB hurries in the season-opening win over No. 11 Oregon
- One QB sack that forced an intentional grounding penalty in the win over Vanderbilt
- Tackle for lost yardage and a QB hurry in win over Samford
- Named to preseason watch lists for the Outland Trophy (nation's top interior lineman) and Bronko Nagurski Trophy (nation's top defender)
- Second-team pre-season All-America selection by Athlon Sports
- Led the Bulldogs in tackles (8) in Capital One Orange Bowl win over Michigan
- Three tackles, one for loss, two QB hurries and a pivotal play of Georgia’s win over Missouri, when he blocked a second-quarter Tiger punt that resulted in a safety
- Four total stops in win over Florida...added three career firsts vs. the Gators: forced fumble, fumble recovery and interception, all in a 39-second span of the second quarter
- Twice named SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Week: vs. USC and Florida
- Named one of three team captains for the Vanderbilt game.
Scouting Report: Strengths
- Can attack the edge with speed and has the flexibility to dip low and under the tackle's reach.
- He’s very good in coverage when looking into the backfield in zone coverage.
- Has crazy speed and very good strength considering his 235lb frame. Gives the ability to play any edge and linebacker position
- Smith can be used as a rangy run defender inside, instinctive when it comes to locating the ball with the quickness to get to it before blockers can react at the second level.
- Ferocious against the run and very good in coverage, is extremely versatile. Despite his build, Smith holds up well in traffic and makes a lot of plays by engaging a block, shedding, and pursuing.
- Has an excellent skip move to win around the edge
- He has an excellent feel for working off blockers and knowing how and when to counter as the play goes on.
- Smith will always try to plow into the largest piles and has a good knack of ending up glued to the ballcarrier.
- Impressive change of direction and quickness to win with inside and outside stick moves.
- Good bend to turn a tight corner and take an efficient path to the quarterback.
Scouting Report: Weaknesses
- Despite being an impressive elite athlete - his production as a pass rusher has only been decent. Has produced just 9 sacks over the last two years, despite being the number one edge rusher on the top defense in the country
- Lacks pop due to his smaller size to anchor, though. Most effective when uncovered inside and chasing stretch plays to the sideline.
- Has some injury concerns - has missed time in both 2021 and 2022
- He may need to be covered up to be effective and can be neutralized by running at him
- Smith's hand usage will need be cleaner and more coordinated
- He relies far too much on speed and doesn't have a complete set of pass-rushing moves
- He's overly reliant on bull rushes - dominates smaller college players. Will not work to the same way at the next level
- Trouble stacking counters with initial moves
- Struggles with momentum when met by bigger stronger linemen
- He all too often takes poor angles
Scouting Report: SummaryNolan Smith is a supreme athlete at outside linebacker, the former five-star prospect has the speed of a corner, combined with the strength of a player 20lbs heavier. His potential is huge, however, he's never been a consistently dominant player on the field and far too often relies on speed and power to mask a very limited skillset of pass-rushing moves. He'll need to quickly learn on the job at the next level or risk being found out.
Expect Smith to be over drafted due to his elite measurables and a likely first-round pick, however, currently, we view him as a second-round talent with some major flaws in his game.
Nolan Smith percentiles vs other Linebacker's (NFL Combine historically - higher value represents better perfomance)
Update - 04/21/2023Smith was the star of day one of the combine as he exploded his stock. At 6’2 and 238 pounds, Smith ran an official 4.39 in the 40-yard dash with a combine record 1.52 10-yard split for EDGE players, he jumped 41.5” in the vertical jump, and had a 10’8 broad jump. Most of these are in the 95th+ percentile - truly an elite performance and one that's catapulted him into the first round.
Nolan Smith Three Minute Video Review
Courtesy of NFL Draft Buzz contributor Steven Wright
How other scouting services rate Nolan Smith (Overall Rank)
All Scouts AverageOverall Rank
All Scouts AveragePosition Rank