Birds 1st Rounder Nolan Smith: Check My Tape, Not My Weight
Nolan Smith is bigger than you might think.
The former Georgia pass rusher, picked by the Eagles 30th overall last Thursday in the NFL Draft, was deemed by some as on the smaller side for an NFL edge rusher when he weighed 239 pounds, a weight more common to stacked linebackers than edge rushers.
But Smith, in an interview with 94.1 WIP’s midday show, told hosts Joe Giglio and former Eagle Hugh Douglas that he’s about five pounds heavier.
“I’m 243 to be exact,” said Smith, who measured at 6-foot-3. “I play at 240, 243, 242. I lost weight to run that fast 40. That’s what most people don’t know.”
Smith blazed a 4.39 at the NFL Scouting Combine, becoming the heaviest prospect to ever run below 4.4 in the 40. He also registered the Combine’s third-best broad jump.
Athletic testing, which the Eagles take into great consideration with defensive linemen, had Smith in the mix for the Eagles at 10th overall, but the team traded up one spot for Smith’s teammate, former Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter.
Leading up to the draft, personnel sources who spoke to ITB’s Geoff Mosher and Adam Caplan projected Smith all over the first-round map, some in the upper part of the first and some in the lower half.
Smith’s weight, along with some needed refinement, were some reasons given for his wide-ranging projection.
On the flip side, edge speed and burst made Smith one of the draft’s top pass-rush prospects, and the Eagles have historically seen undersized pass rushers flourish.
Last year, 235 pound rush linebacker Haason Reddick registered a team-high 16 sacks and forced five fumbles. Trent Cole, a 270-pound defensive end drafted by the Eagles in the fifth round in 2005, logged 85.5 sacks in his 10 seasons with the Eagles.
Cole, second only to Reggie White on the team’s all-time sack list, is an Eagles Hall of Famer.
Before Cole, the Eagles spent big money in 2004 to lure 265-pound free agent defensive end Jevon Kearse, who made two Pro Bowls with the Titans and became known as “The Freak” for his lightning-quick first step.
Kearse picked up 22 sacks in his four seasons with the Eagles and helped them reach the Super Bowl in 2004.
“One thing I would say, I got juice,” Smith said when asked to describe his game. ” That’s from my film, how I move. I play every snap like it’s my last and that’s what they gonna see in Philly.”
Also lauded for his character and leadership, Smith said he’s thrilled to be in a locker-room with other tone-setters, such as Jalen Hurts, Fletcher Cox and Reddick.
“That’s what I like to set myself as, I’m going to set the tone, no matter what,” Smith said. “If we’re running sprints, I’m going to set the tone and be the first. I’m really going to set the tone within the game.
“Leadership is one of the good things that come from me, but you must be a great follower before you be a great leader. I cant wait to get there and follow some of the guys that have done it right – like Jalen Hurts, or Haason Reddick. I’m just ready to learn from them.”
Smith’s measureables profile similarly to those of Reddick, a 2017 first-round pick – 13th overall – by the Cardinals who struggled for his first three seasons as an inside linebacker until being moved to edge rusher his final year for Arizona and breaking out with 12.5 sacks.
The 6-foot-1, 235-pound Reddick signed a one-year deal with Carolina in 2022 and logged 11 sacks before signing a three-year deal last offseason with the Eagles and erupting for 16 sacks en route to his first Pro Bowl and becoming the first player in league history with double-digit sacks for three straight years on three different teams.
“He’s probably had one of the biggest seasons ever,” Smith said, “and just from guys like him not giving up and not listening to people tell him that we can’t do it or we’re too small … for him to get out there and get 16 sacks, I cant wait to sit down with him and take notes on everything he does.”
– Geoff Mosher (@geoffmoshernfl) is co-host of the “Inside the Birds” podcast and staff writer for InsideTheBirds.com.
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