It’s officially draft week in the NFL. Come Thursday, players from all across the College Football landscape will start to find their new homes. Last year that happened in record breaking fashion for the Georgia Bulldogs with 15 players picked. It won’t be quite that many this year, but Kirby Smart’s crew still should be well represented in the selections taking place over the course of three days in Kansas City.
With double-digit Georgia players expected to be picked, DawgsHQ prepares you by taking a look back on their respective collegiate careers with our Georgia Draft Profile series. Next up, one of the team’s top leaders in each of the last two seasons, linebacker Nolan Smith.
Weight: 238 pounds
Arms / Hands: 32 5/8 inches / 9 inches
High School / Hometown: IMG Academy (Fla.) / Savannah, Ga.
On3 Industry Ranking (2019): No. 1 overall, No. 1 linebacker, No. 1 in state of Florida
One could argue that Nolan Smith was the heart and soul of Georgia’s team this past season, and they’d have a strong case. While he was on the field, Smith was an impactful player. Then, after an injury ended his season halfway through, he turned into an energy guy for the Bulldogs on the sidelines.
Smith arrived in Athens as the No. 1 recruit in the country and with expectations of being great. That wasn’t as easy as many imagined with him having the share an outside linebacker room with the likes of Azeez Ojulari and Jermaine Johnson in his first two years – both of whom went on to be drafted in the NFL. Add in Adam Anderson and a path to playing time was even tougher.
Still, Smith made an impact. He had 18 stops as a freshman and 22 as a sophomore with 2.5 tackles for loss each season, all coming on sacks. Then, he exploded in 2021 as a part of Georgia’s championship level defense that featured five first round picks in last year’s draft and eight overall, plus whatever’s to come this year and on down the road. Smith finished fifth on the team in tackles with 56 stops including nine for loss with 3.5 sacks. His biggest game of the year came in Georgia’s rivalry matchup against Florida as he forced and recovered a fumble and intercepted Anthony Richardson on back to back drives.
Smith was on his way to a stellar senior season in 2022 after deciding to return before suffering a torn pectoral muscle that ended his season after eight games. In the time he was on the field though, Smith had seven tackles for loss with one in each game he played after the opener. He made his return to the field at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis in March and impressed by becoming the heaviest player to run sub-4.4 in the 40 (4.39) and jump higher than 40 inches in the vertical (41.5). As a result, he’s shot back up draft boards to around the same spot he was before his injury – likely to hear his name called in the first round but the range of that pick being pretty wide open.