NFL Insider: “Nolan Smith could go in the top 8”

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When the college football season began, Nolan Smith was a consensus top prospect. And at some point, potentially when he suffered a season-ending pectoral injury, he started falling down draft boards.

It didn’t make sense, and it doesn’t make sense now. Nolan Smith didn’t just forget how to play football, and his injury isn’t as detrimental to his career as an ACL or Achilles injury would’ve been. Fortunately, fans and keyboard warriors don’t draft these guys, and NFL insiders are beginning to see the Georgia product come off the board earlier than expected.

ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler first came out and said his floor is the Steelers at #17, but he is garnering top-10 buzz. Add insider Peter Schrager to the list of people that believe Nolan Smith will be drafted high, potentially as soon as the first eight selections.

Despite being undersized for the position, standing 6-foot-2 and weighing 238 pounds, Nolan Smith doesn’t play like it. I have seen him take on SEC pulling guards with ease. He might not be a schematic fit for all NFL defenses, but he could undoubtedly be an impact player in the right situation.

Moreover, what the former Dawg lacks in size, he makes up for in athleticism. He ran 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.

He’s not the prototypical three-down edge defender that can anchor against the run and pressure quarterbacks, but Nolan Smith is talented enough to carve out a significant role if a defensive coordinator puts him in the right position. It wouldn’t surprise me if he went in the first ten selections. 

John Adams/Icon Sportswire

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