Nolan Smith brings an elite skill set to the Eagles that could translate to elite NFL production

As part of a very talented Eagles' defense, Nolan Smith has the potential to be a star. He will be an awesome and unique weapon for Sean Desai.
Cleveland Browns v Philadelphia Eagles
Cleveland Browns v Philadelphia Eagles / Mitchell Leff/GettyImages

On the Philadelphia Eagles' defensive line, plenty of talented players are poised to make a significant impact. Brandon Graham, Hasson Reddick, Josh Sweat, and others have provided an aggressive pass rush off the edge, and that should continue this season. Fletcher Cox, Jalen Carter, and Jordan Davis are forces on the interior that can give any offensive line fits. Opposing coaches and their coordinators wont enjoy any picnics when the Birds are on the schedule.

This impressive unit also features another player who could play a unique role in the Eagles' defensive scheme this season. Nolan Smith, the second of the team's two first-round picks, is already showcasing how he can be used as a weapon for Philly's new defensive coordinator Sean Desai.

On a great Eagles' defense, Nolan Smith can play a unique but key role.

As most of you know, Nolan Smith is a rookie out of Georgia and a monster of an athlete. At the NFL Combine, he showcased a 4.39-second 40-yard dash, a 41.5-inch vertical jump, and a ten-foot-eight-inch broad jump. According to RAS Football, Smith's RAS score was 9.23. That places him in the elite tier of the platform's ratings engine.

The athletic ability demonstrated at the combine is a direct translation from Smith's college production. During four NCAA football seasons at Georgia, he racked up 14 sacks, 14 quarterback hits, and 40 hurries. He also collected 49 tackles and an interception during this time frame.

To add further context to Smith's stats, according to Pro Football Focus, he authored positive pass rush, run defense, and tackling grades in all four of his seasons at the collegiate level. He also posted a positive coverage grade in his injury-shortened 2022 season.

Despite his high-level traits and production, there are concerns about Nolan Smith as an NFL player. He weighs a slight 238 pounds, which is considered to be very undersized as an edge rusher. As a result, there are questions about what his long-term positional home should be at the next level.

His traits and skills are reflective of a player that should be playing on the edge. His physical stature is reflective of a player that should be playing more in space. We'll see what happens as the season wears on.

The Eagles rolled the dice on Smith's talent, making him the 30th overall selection of the 2023 NFL Draft. By doing so, they again added another weapon to an already-stacked pass rush. Smith has shown potential.

Smith has already impressed defensive coordinator Sean Desai, who spoke about the rookie during a recent chat with the Philly media.

"Like a lot of these young guys, he keeps getting better. He’s developing. He’s really trying to work on his craft. [Defensive Ends/Outside Linebackers] Coach [Jeremiah] Washburn is doing a tremendous job of focusing him in on the things he needs to focus on. He plays with a relentless mindset and relentless attitude."

Smith will continue to progress. He will have a huge role in the upcoming season. The combination of his speed rush and great run defense would give the Eagles a weapon that can be used on all three downs. Add in an above-average mentality, and Smith can establish himself as both a talented player and leader on the team's defense.

The Eagles' defense was one of the best in the NFL last season, and is shaping up to be in the upper echelon once again this year. But if they can find a way to deploy the unique weapon that is Nolan Smith, they have to potential to soar to new heights in 2023.

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