Pro Football Focus released its early top 10 edge defenders prospects for the 2023 NFL Draft. Georgia senior Nolan Smith makes the list at No. 5, with Alabama junior Will AndersonClemson junior Myles Murphy, Army junior Andre Carterand Kansas State junior Felix Anudike-Uzomah comprising the top four on the list. PFF says of Smith:
The former No. 1 overall recruit in the 2019 class, Smith plays with a jet pack strapped to his back. He can close on ball-carriers in space as well as any other edge defender in the draft class.
Why, though, with insane athleticism and his recruiting background did he not declare after the 2021 season? It comes back to his pass-rushing moves — or lack thereof. He doesn’t play with nearly the same violence rushing the passer as he does setting the edge in the run game. His 79.1 pass-rushing grade last season wasn’t going to get many NFL teams excited about drafting an undersized edge rusher (6-foot-3, 235 pounds) early.
Jordan Davis with 3 total pressures as well pic.twitter.com/TehaPWSVgm
— Brent Rollins (@BrentRollinsPhD) January 2, 2022
Smith needs to come back in 2022 with a more refined pass-rushing plan and, hopefully, some added weight. If he does that, there’s no reason he can’t be a first-rounder.
Smith played in 14 of 15 games for Georgia in 2021, starting in all 14, and totaling 56 tackles (fifth on the team), nine tackles for loss (second on the team), 3.5 sacks, and 27 quarterback pressures (fourth on the team). team). He also had an interception, pass breakup, three forced fumbles, a fumble recovery, and a blocked kick. Smith saved his best play of the season for the College Football Playoff. In the semifinal win over Michigan, Smith led Georgia with eight tackles and seven quarterback pressures, a career-high, along with a sack, a pass breakup, and a forced fumble. In the championship win over Alabama, Smith was tied for third on the team with seven tackles, with a team-leading two tackles for loss, along with three quarterback hurries and the game-ending sack of Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young.
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