Nolan Smith

Is Nolan Smith a darkhorse to be the Bears’ first-round pick?

Georgia edge rusher Nolans Smith is rarely, if ever, mentioned as a legitimate possibility for the Chicago Bears in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft. Instead, Bears mock drafts are dominated by offensive linemen. Smith’s Georgia teammate, Jalen Carter, is a strong possibility, as is an edge defender like Texas Tech’s Tyree Wilson.

Meanwhile, Smith remains absent. This, despite a near-historic NFL Combine performance.

Nolan Smith checked in at 6-foot-2, 238 pounds, and ran a blistering 4.39 40-yard dash. He jumped 41.5 inches in the vertical and 10’8″ in the broad. Simply put, his athletic testing was remarkable.

So why doesn’t it seem like Smith is a viable candidate for the Chicago Bears? Good question. Maybe he should be. GM Ryan Poles is doing his homework on him, that’s for sure.

Smith told ESPN Chicago’s David Kaplan that he has a two-day visit lined up with the Bears over the weekend.

Nolan Smith isn’t considered a good bet at No. 9 because of the Bears’ need at offensive tackle. Combined with the talent that should be available at OT when Chicago is on the clock, it’s a no-brainer for Poles to protect Justin Fields in Round 1.

But what if the Chicago Bears trade back again? It’s something Poles is hinting is possible, and if they slide back a few spots, Smith could make sense.

Smith wasn’t very productive at Georgia despite his incredible athletic traits. He totaled only three sacks in 2022 and finished his career as a Bulldog with 12.5 sacks in four seasons (38 games). He’s also undersized for the Chicago Bears’ defense.

Players with Smith’s athletic profile don’t come along often. There haven’t been many edger rushers who weigh less than 240 pounds that have found success in the NFL. But there also haven’t been many who are as fast and explosive as Nolan Smith.

We know one thing for sure: The Bears are doing their homework on Smith. He’s on their draft board and likely has a first-round grade from the team. Whether it’s a ‘blue’ grade that puts him in the mix to be the pick at No. 9 is anyone’s guess.

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