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Draft Coverage

Meet the Prospect: Nolan Smith

Name: Nolan Smith

Position: Edge rusher

School: Georgia

Ht/Wt: 6-2, 238

40-yard dash: 4.39 seconds

Bench: Did not bench

Vertical: 41.5 inches

Broad: 10-foot-8

3-cone: Did not run

20-yard shuttle: Did not run

View photos of NFL prospect Nolan Smith.

How he fits: Smith's senior season was cut short by a torn pectoral muscle, but it was his junior season in 2021 where he really made his mark, totaling 53 tackles (29 solo), 8.0 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, an interception, three forced fumbles and a fumble recovery in 12 games.

Smith made headlines at this year's NFL Scouting Combine after running the 40 in 4.39 seconds. It was the second fastest time by a defensive lineman since 2003. He was also the heaviest player at 238 pounds to record a vertical leap over 40.0 inches (41.5) in the event's history.

Smith is a freakish athlete on the edge, and teams will love his tape because he's just as tenacious against the run as he is trying to get to the quarterback. He's going to be a player who can play a lot of different roles for a defense and a guy that doesn't have to come off the field depending on the situation.

The Lions have a nice collection of young pass rushers, led by Rookie Defensive Player of the Year runner-up Aidan Hutchinson, but teams can never have too many good pass rushers. Smith would bring speed, explosiveness and even more versatility to Detroit's front seven.

He's drawing a lot of comparisons to Eagles undersized pass rusher Haason Reddick (6-1, 240), who's had three consecutive 10.0-plus sack seasons for the Cardinals, Panthers and Eagles.

Key observations: Smith earned a 90.6 run defense grade by Pro Football Focus in 2021, third in the FBS. This past season, 38.8 percent of Smith's tackles went for a loss before he suffered that season-ending pec injury.

What they had to say about him: "Smith's healthy return at the combine following a late-season pectoral injury helped shoot his stock back into the first round. Smith is undersized at 238 pounds but has a dominant first step and uses his length well to create separation from opposing offensive tackles. His production at Georgia netted just three sacks in 2022, but his positional tools and potential as an outside rusher are worthy of a top-15 selection." – Matt Miller, ESPN

View photos of the 2023 Detroit DEA Maltz Challenge honoring Marine Lance Corporal Jeremy S. Shock.

How he stacks up: Smith was one of 20 players given a first-round grade in this year's draft by Miller, who lists him at No. 14 on that list. Smith is No. 15 on ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr.'s Big Board.

Smith is No. 11 and No. 16, respectively, on the list of top prospects in the class by The Athletic's Dane Brugler and NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah.'s Bucky Brooks lists Smith as the second best linebacker available in the class behind Arkansas' Drew Sanders.

"Smith is a standup edge defender with the versatility to play multiple spots on the second level," Brooks wrote of Smith. "The Georgia star could fill a void as a DPR (designated pass rusher) or play in the box as a run-and-chase defender. With unique traits and rare athleticism, the Combine star is surging up the charts."

What he had to say: "Hopefully I can be that leader someday in somebody's program," Smith said at the Combine about being a natural leader. "And just know I'm player led and self-driven. You're not going to have to tell me to go, I promise you. I just go naturally on my own. I wake up out of bed juiced up, ready and excited."

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