One of the Seattle Seahawks biggest needs this offseason is an edge rusher across from 2022 breakout star Uchenna Nwosu. Seattle could address the position via free agency but does not have the needed cap space to add an impact edge, assuming they address other positions. This year’s 2023 draft class is loaded with high ceiling/floor edge rushers, most of whom we have covered heavily. In this article we are going to cover another in Georgia edge rusher Nolan Smith.
Height - 6 foot 3 - Weight - 237 pounds
- Smith’s best attribute is his raw athleticism and speed off of the line. Smith is very quick to reduce the space between him and the tackle.
- He has a very accurate and consistent hand strike.
- Smith’s go to move is a swipe move which he pairs well with his athleticism. He often incorporates a jab step prior to reaching the tackle in an attempt to get them to open the one way. He then cuts the opposite way and swipes the lineman's hands often resulting in a blown block.
- He consistently replaces his hands when stood up in an attempt to disengage and get involved in the play.
- Smith has a strong upper body which allows him to fight through lineman who are only able to get their arms on him from the side rather than getting their bodies in front.
- If he is going up against an offensive lineman who takes a wide step, he will quickly shoot inside and beat them to the spot nearly every time.
- His athleticism paired with his very good (7 on 1-9 scouting scale) motor allows him to make multiple plays from the backside. Smith has very good (7) edge set where he engages with the lineman, gets his arms extended to control the block and gets his shoulders parallel to the line to close off the edge.
- He always keeps his eyes in the backfield on running plays.
- Against option plays, Smith does not shuffle too much down the line either way, forcing the quarterback to make a decision. Then based on that decision, his positioning and athleticism allow him to make a play on the ball carrier regardless of who has the ball.
- His very good (7) eyes and FBI means he does not flow or take false steps based on pre snap or early snap movement on running plays.
- Smith is a very good (7) form tackler wrapping up ball carriers around the waist and being able to drag them down right at the spot.
- Smith does need to do a better job of converting his speed into power and driving through the offensive lineman.
- He does not have any advanced move in his repertoire to generate pressure. Smith does lack an overall go to counter move to help him disengage from offensive lineman.
- Smith does not have heavy hands and does not work into his lower half with enough consistency. This allows linemen to anchor down quickly after the point of contact if he is trying to rush through them.
- In zone coverage he does not shuffle his feet smoothly as they get loud despite playing on his toes. Smith does take some false steps in zone which results in him being slower from spot to spot when established.
- Smith did not get many man coverage reps but when he did his angles were questionable, which resulted in him allowing separation.
- In the running game Smith does struggle to disengage from bigger offensive lineman, unable to get his arms extended and keep his hands moving.
Floor/ceiling - Smith’s very good (7) motor, FBI, tackling, play speed, athleticism and first step quickness gives him the ceiling of a high end three-down starter. However, his lack of an advanced move, lack of a counter move, and inconsistent flat coverage gives him the floor of a low-end starter.
Grade - 6.7 - Solid three-down starter on the first day of his second season - Round - Mid first
Grade explanation - Smith is not anywhere close to a finished product as he still has a lot of room left to grow as a pass rusher. However, his strong impact in the running game and natural athleticism as a pass rusher will allow for him to be a three-down starter very early in his career. His ceiling rests on whether or not he develops more of a pass rushing arsenal, if he does, he can become an All-Pro caliber edge who can reach 12+ sacks a year. If he does not and continues to rely on his athleticism to get home, he will still be a starter who can sit around a half-dozen sacks a season.
Schematic fit - Smith projects best as a starting OLB in a 3-4 system as he is a little bit quicker out of a two-point stance. Additionally, despite not being the best in coverage at Georgia he has the necessary traits to be at least average at it in the NFL. He is not limited to a 3-4 stance at the NFL level as he can play in a three-point stance as a 4-3 edge as well. Smith is a three-down player because of his impact in both the running and passing game and if needed he can make a massive impact on special teams.