The Falcons have been mocked to draft what seems like a dozen different prospects since the NFL season ended. Christian Gonzalez, Devon Witherspoon, Tyree Wilson, Lukas Van Ness, Peter Skoronski, etc., have all been mocked to Atlanta, but Nolan Smith is the most recent narrative gaining steam.
Outside of rumors, there are a number of NFL insiders that are currently mocking the Falcons to select the Georgia defender. Peter Schrager, Dane Brugler, and Mel Kiper all see Terry Fontenot picking the former Bulldog.
Peter Schrager (NFL.com)
“Atlanta adds another defensive piece to a unit that’s been rebuilt this offseason. An explosive combine opened some eyes in the media to Smith, but NFL teams have been high on the former five-star recruit for the last few years.”
Dane Brugler (The Athletic)
“The Falcons have added several notable veterans (Calais Campbell, Bud Dupree) to their defensive line, and it wouldn’t be surprising if they dropped a young rookie into that mix as well. Smith was born and raised in Georgia, played his college ball for the Bulldogs, and would get to stay in his home state to start his NFL career.”
Mel Kiper (ESPN)
“It’s edge rusher or cornerback here, as the Falcons have clear needs at both positions, even after all their signings in free agency. They had just 21 sacks last season, which ranked second-to-last in the league. While Smith would fit better in a 3-4 defense, I see new coordinator Ryan Nielsen — who came over from New Orleans — figuring out ways to get him on the field to rush passers. Nielsen could vary his fronts. Smith is an explosive player with a ton of upside, and people in the league rave about his leadership ability.”
It’s not just insiders, though; the betting markets are pointing to Nolan Smith as well. FanDuel’s odds for Atlanta’s 8th overall pick have Bijan Robinson and Smith as the favorites, sitting at +250. That is no coincidence.
Nolan Smith fits the mold of what the Falcons want in their players — athletic, smart, and dedicated. Despite standing 6-foot-2 and weighing 238 pounds, the edge defender doesn’t play like it. I’ve seen a number of plays where he uses velocity to stand up bigger SEC guards. He might not be a schematic fit for all NFL defenses, but he could undoubtedly be an impact player in the right situation. Atlanta’s new defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen ran a traditional 4-3 in New Orleans; I would imagine he won’t fit a round peg into a square hole.
Nielsen will be able to utilize Nolan Smtih in a variety of ways; he tested off the charts, running a 4.39 40-yard dash with a 1.52 10-yard split at the NFL Combine. The college production is there too –11.5 sacks, 21.5 tackles for loss, and 78 quarterback pressures in 46 games for the Bulldogs.
Falcons fans should be very open to the idea of Nolan Smith being the club’s next first-round pick.
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