Bears Draft Target: Nolan Smith
Mark Rebilas - USA Today Sports

Bears Draft Target: Nolan Smith

by - Senior Writer -

As we inch close to the NFL Draft, you are starting to see the Chicago Bears figure out what their plans will be come draft night. Granted, those plans could all change with a trade or depending on how the board looks when they pick, but for now, they seem to know what they want to do and when they want to address particular needs.

With that comes a plethora of in-house visits as the Bears continue to do their homework on a lot of players. Most recently, another Georgia Bulldog came to Halas Hall for a visit, but it is a name that some may not be too familiar with in Nolan Smith. Part of the daunting Bulldogs defense the past two seasons that won back-to-back NCAA championships, Smith is an athletic freak and someone that would come into Chicago with a new sense of energy.

Georgia has been loaded with talent the past three seasons, and it wouldn't surprise anyone to have anywhere from 5-10 players taken from that squad in the first round. Most notably, Jalen Carter and Broderick Jones are on that list who are also being targeted by the Bears at No. 9. Smith is another first-round caliber player and one that is now starting to skyrocket up the draft boards.

A bit older than most of the Bulldog products at 22, Smith was not only a star at Georgia but was a massive part of their defense that helped pave the way to two consecutive national titles. Although he didn't see much action in his first two seasons in Athens, he managed to play in 38 games across four seasons, with most of them coming during his final two years on campus.

While you would like to see a bit more experience, the tape doesn't lie, and when he was on the field, he was an absolute force to deal with. Throughout those 38 games, Smith picked up 110 tackles, 20 tackles for a loss, and 12.5 sacks. That may not seem like a lot, but when you look at the overall talent that the Bulldogs had on defense, that is incredible production.

Another thing to remember was this past season when Smith saw his season cut short due to a torn Pectoral muscle. In the games he did play in, however, he recorded seven tackles for a loss and three sacks as the production was not only there, but he was going to be putting up close to career bests in every defensive category.

Racking up splash plays in limited action for a high-profile SEC powerhouse will grab anyone’s attention. That is a big reason more teams are visiting with Smith and why his name is starting to skyrocket on the Big Board. This is a classic case of teams banking on a player with more potential than the overall production.

While the on-field production is solid, what stands out the most regarding Smith is the physical tools which many people are falling in love with. From a size standpoint, Smith checks in at 6-2 and 238 pounds, so he is very small for an EDGE rusher. That is a concern to some who think he needs to add roughly 10-15 pounds of muscle this season, but what he lacks in size, he makes up for in athletic ability and will help make it in the NFL.

Smith put up an impressive 41. 5-inch vertical jump at the combine and a 10'8" broad jump, which shows how explosive he can be. Throw in his 4.39 second 40-time, and you have an EDGE rusher that is faster than many running backs and a good chunk of NFL WRs. Can you imagine a guy like this chasing you down on defense to make a play?

Many scouts have given Smith a player comparison of Dwight Freeney, which you can see based on the size. Freeney was 6-1, but he weighed 268 pounds, so you can see the size discrepancy that Smtih is facing if he doesn't put on weight. Regardless, Freeney was one of the best pass rushers in the NFL for over a decade, and Smith has all the tools and potential to become one of the best in a few years' time.

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