KC Chiefs: Nolan Smith would be best-case scenario for Round 1

An Edge rusher is still relatively high up on the list of needs for the Kansas City Chiefs as we inch closer to the 2023 NFL Draft. While they made a solid signing in free agent pass-rusher Charles Omenihu who should add good depth, they still need a little bit more, possibly someone who could challenge for a starting spot opposite of George Karlaftis.

When going after an edge rusher in the draft, you typically have to grab one early, or else the quality drops pretty substantially in the later rounds. So it would be ideal if the Chiefs could address the position early. It is easier said than done, however, as offensive tackle and wide receiver are also pretty big needs. It will all really depend on how the board falls.

Nolan Smith would be the best-case scenario in round one for KC Chiefs

If the Chiefs do go edge early, the best-case scenario would probably be Georgia defensive end Nolan Smith. Smith is regarded as of the most athletic defensive ends in all of the draft. Smith put on a show at the NFL Combine where he ran a 4.3 40-yard dash at 235 lbs. Smith would end up posting a RAS (Relative Athletic Score) of 9.20u which is considered elite.

When you look at Smith’s production at Georgia, you might not be all that impressed. He only tallied 12.5 sacks in four seasons at Georgia and just 3.0 sacks in 2022. He did add 110 total tackles in four seasons as well as 20 TFL. Still not elite production, but you have to consider how much Georgia rotates guys in and out and just how much talent Smith played behind in his earlier years. Georgia puts out NFL-ready prospects every single year.

The other thing to consider is that traits are infinitely more valuable than production in college and Smith has all the traits. A good example to point to is Baltimore Ravens defensive end Odafe Oweh. He did not record a single sack in college for Penn State. Despite that, he posted 5.0 sacks as a rookie after being drafted in the first round by Baltimore in 2021.

Smith has all the physical ability to be good in the NFL. He’s got the quick-twitch movement that allows him to scoot around tackles and speed for turning the corner as well as plenty of bend.

The only holdup to Kansas City potentially drafting Smith is his size. He’s not a prototypical Steve Spagnuolo defensive end whatsoever. He would be by far the lightest pass-rusher taken in the Spagnuolo era at just 235 lbs and the Spagnuolo threshold of bigger, longer defensive ends is one that the Chiefs haven’t seemed to move off of much.

That said, defensive line coach Joe Cullen seems to have a lot of influence now as far as the defensive line goes and he name-dropped Smith multiple times during a March interview with KC Sports Network. Additionally, Cullen ran the defensive line drills at Georgia’s pro day where he worked closely with Smith. If anyone could convince Spagnuolo to give him the guys he wants, it’s Joe Cullen.

Despite Smith’s smaller size, he has tremendous upside, and he’s not afraid to play the run, which is how he makes up for his lack of size. It’s also an easy way for him to get on the field as a rookie. If he can come into Kansas City and let this coaching staff get their hands on him and refine his pass-rushing game as he continues to add to his arsenal and maybe even a little more weight, he could be a really good player