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June 04, 2023

Eagles rookie NFL player comparisons: Edge Nolan Smith

The Eagles landed the athletic and talented Nolan Smith at the end of the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft. Who's Smith's NFL comparison?

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6.1.23_EaglesNolan-Smith-defense_ColleenClaggett-9559.jpg Colleen Claggett/for PhillyVoice

Nolan Smith #3 of the Philadelphia Eagles looks on during a Philadelphia Eagles practice at the NovaCare Complex in Philadelphia, Pa. on June 1, 2023.

As we do every offseason, we'll be comparing each of the Philadelphia Eagles' rookies to current or former NFL players. Today we'll try to find a comp for first-round edge rusher Nolan Smith.

Previous player comp profiles

Jalen Carter

Smith was a highly rated prospect coming out of high school (2nd in the nation, via Rivals), who had the best SPARQ rating in his recruiting class. That means that he's an incredible athlete, in case you're unfamiliar with SPARQ. He also crushed the Combine, running an absurd 4.39 40 and vertical jumping 41 1/2" at 238 pounds.

Compare those numbers to Micah Parsons, for example:

Measurable Micah Parsons Nolan Smith 
Height 6'3 6'2 
Weight 246 238 
Arm length 31 1/2" 32 5/8" 
Hand size 11" 9" 
10-yard split 1.59 1.52 
40-yard dash 4.36 4.39 
Vertical jump 34" 41 1/2" 
Broad jump 126" 128" 

We're not comping Smith to Parsons, to be clear. We're just showing what level of athlete he is. And yet, Smith isn't just an athlete. In addition to his speed off the edge, he is also a physical run defender willing to set the edge so that his teammates can collect tackles, and it's pretty easy to see early on that he's going to be culture fit in Philly due to his love of the sport and his relentless energy.

Smith had an immediate role in Georgia's defense as a true freshman, but his production has left something to be desired. 2021 was his best year, as he had 53 tackles, 4.5 sacks, one INT, and three forced fumbles. Some highlights: 

The popular comp for Smith throughout the draft process was Haason Reddick, which we even made here. However, after some consideration I think his game more closely resembles former Packers and Rams edge rusher Clay Matthews.

Above we noted that in Smith's best college season he had 53 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 1 INT, and 3 forced fumbles. Interestingly, in Matthews' best season at USC, he had 57 tackles, 4.5 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles while playing on a loaded defense that included 13 future NFL players.

Matthews' hallmark traits over his 11-year NFL career were his motor, toughness, instincts, versatility, and ability to bend around the edge with his athleticism. During his NFL career, Matthews played at around 250 pounds, but he weighed in at just 240 at the 2009 Combine, just two pounds heavier than Smith at the 2023 Combine. Don't watch this following video if you're part of the Kevin Kolb family:

I see a lot of those same traits in Smith.

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