VDT: Georgia EDGE Nolan Smith Is an Incredible Athlete, but Will His Frame Hold Up in the NFL?
A sneaky position of need for the Vikings by the time they are on the clock with the 23rd overall pick could be EDGE. They signed Marcus Davenport in free agency, but they also have Za’Darius Smith who requested to be released earlier this offseason, and Danielle Hunter, who will need a new contract in order to remain with the team in 2024.
That brings us to Georgia EDGE Nolan Smith, who is the focus of today’s edition of Vikings Draft Thermometer series, PurplePTSD‘s one-stop shop for all your 2023 NFL Draft needs.
Throughout this series, we have examined a number of prospects ahead of the 2023 NFL Draft, analyzing their strengths, weaknesses, what exactly their role could be at the NFL level, and most importantly, whether or not they could end up playing their first NFL snaps in a Vikings uniform.
- Height: 6′ 2″
- Weight: 238 pounds
- Arm Length: 32 5/8″
- Hand Size: 9″
- 40-Yard Dash: 4.39 seconds
- 10-Yard Split: 1.52 seconds
- Vertical Jump: 41.5″
- Broad Jump: 10′ 8″
- School: Georgia
- Games Watched: Kentucky (2021), South Carolina (2022), Missouri (2022), Florida (2022)
- 2019: 18 tackles, 2.5 TFLs, 2.5 sacks, 1 PD (11 games)
- 2020: 21 tackles, 2.5 TFLs, 2.5 sacks (7 games)
- 2021: 53 tackles, 8 TFLs, 4.5 sacks, 1 PD, 1 INT, 3 FFs, 1 FR (12 games)
- 2022: 18 tackles, 7 TFLs, 3 sacks, 1 PD (8 games)
The first thing that jumps out about Nolan Smith is his 40 time. At the combine, he ran a blistering 4.39, but that was only one part of what was overall a truly incredible performance at the event. He also showcased more explosive athleticism with a 41.5-inch vertical and a 10′ 8″ broad jump.
In terms of his actual play, he is a very adept run stopper at the defensive end spot due to some outstanding technique and his ability to create leverage. Over the past two seasons, he recorded run defense PFF grades of 90.6 in 2021 and 82.4 in 2022.
Smith also displays incredible toughness which allows him to hang with even bigger offensive linemen in the trenches. He may not fill up the stat sheet on a weekly basis, but he is a terrific team defender with a strong motor.
Smith may be a great run-stopper, but he is rather inconsistent as a pass rusher and can get stuck on blocks from larger tackles. This got better in 2022, but heading into the NFL, he could run into some big problems as he is going to be smaller than virtually every offensive tackle that he goes up against. More weight on his frame will be necessary to find success as a pro.
Additionally, Smith’s durability is going to worry some teams heading into the NFL. He battled with an upper-body injury during the 2021 season, and in 2022, he had a torn pectoral muscle end his final collegiate season. This is certainly something to monitor for any team drafting him.
- Draft Round: Mid-Late First Round
- Immediate Role: Ideally a starting EDGE in a 4-3
- Best-Case Scenario: Smaller Micah Parsons
- Vikings Draft Temperature: 20
It seems unlikely that 1) the Vikings would target an EDGE in the first round when the needs at CB and WR are staring them in the face, and 2) Smith falls all the way to 23rd overall. That being said, if Smith is staring the Vikings in the face at 23, and they can get him into their facilities, it’s going to be tough to pass that up.
Josh Frey is a Class of 2020 graduate of The College of Idaho with a bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing. When he’s not writing about the NFL, Josh enjoys running, gaming, or rooting for the Milwaukee Brewers and Bucks. Check out his Twitter account: @Freyed_Chicken.