The Philadelphia Eagles have drafted Georgia LB Nolan Smith with the No. 30 overall pick in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft.
Smith has outstanding speed for a linebacker and/or edge rusher. He ran a 4.39 forty at the NFL combine while his vertical (41.5 inches) and broad jump (128 inches) ranked near the top among the wide receivers and cornerbacks. That, along with a 238 pound frame, gives him plenty of versatility as a linebacker that can rush off the edge or drop back into coverage.
There are some worries with his injury history and potentially too much reliance on speed to rush the passer without a full complement of moves. Still, Smith had an excellent combine, and he has all the tools to become an impact player in the NFL.
Smith was one of the top high school recruits in the nation when he joined the Georgia Bulldogs in 2019. From there, he played in 46 total games across four years, recording 65 tackles and 17 total sacks. His best season was as a junior in 2021, where Smith had 32 tackles and seven sacks with 18 QB hurries.
Smith entered the 2022 season as a second-team preseason All-American (according to Athlon Sports), but his season ended early after eight games due to a torn pectoral muscle. He recorded 14 tackles, 12 QB hurries, and two sacks in those eight games.
How can Nolan Smith impact the Eagles in 2023?
The Bulldogs are just a pipeline for the Eagles at this point. The Dawgs had an outstanding defense two years ago, and they now have four players from that unit. Haason Reddick, Nicholas Morrow and Smith’s former teammate Nakobe Dean make up Philly’s current linebacker set. Smith can slot in for Reddick or Morrow alongside Dean to create a formidable linebacker corps. It remains to be seen how many snaps he will log to begin the season, but this is definitely a draft pick that improves the future outlook for the Eagles.