2. Nolan Smith, Edge Rusher, Georgia
Selected by: Walter Football
Nolan Smith can consider himself one of the unsung heroes of the Georgia Bulldogs National Championship winning side. It’s unusual that a five-star recruit and one that was number one overall in the 2019 class has to play second fiddle to his teammates. Unfortunately, when you are part of one of the most loaded defensive line groups in the history of the sport, you have to bide your time for the spotlight.
He still managed eight tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks but you can expect him to become a bigger part of the pass rush plan in 2022. The departures of Travon Walker, Jordan Davis, and Devonte Wyatt will give Smith chance to shine, and with Jalen Carter still a force on the interior he won’t bear the sole load of getting to the QB.
Smith lacks some of the ideal length and explosion from a top-tier edge talent but has enough in his locker to find himself in consideration at the backend of the first round. One of the biggest plus points he has is his ability to set the edge in the run game, earning a PFF grade of 90.2 vs the run.
For the Bengals, it would be a case of you cannot have too much pass rush. Trey Hendrickson was phenomenal in his first season as a Bengal and Sam Hubbard is a sturdy, reliable edge defender. This year will be key to see what they have in Joseph Ossai and that will shape whether they believe reinforcements are necessary.
If Smith can show more flash on passing downs and the Bengals fail to get the production they want from guys like Cam Sample, Wyatt Hubert, and Ossai then they are likely to look for fresh blood along the defensive front.