Georgia Edge Rusher Nolan Smith to Visit the Bears This Weekend

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Georgia Edge Rusher Nolan Smith to Visit the Bears This Weekend

Chicago Bears

The Georgia Bulldogs were loaded with talent in each of the last two seasons. No wonder they’ve won back-to-back national titles. And when it comes to the upcoming NFL Draft, it isn’t surprising to see a handful of UGA products getting mocked to go in the first round. So while we’ve had our eyes on the likes of defensive tackle Jalen Carter and offensive lineman Broderick Jones, a third Georgia product is catching our eye.

Let’s keep an eye on Nolan Smith, who has been garnering some buzz lately as a possible Bears draft target.

Chicago sports media personality David Kaplan shares that Smith is set to visit the Bears starting on Sunday. Kaplan is the latest local to connect the Bears and Smith. Recently, NBC Sports Chicago’s Josh Schrock wrote Smith was built to be a piece of the Bears’ draft puzzle. Smith to the Bears in a recent mock draft. And in his most recent mock draft, Schrock sends Smith to Chicago. But only after trading back with the Tennessee Titans (who slide up to get QB Will Levis). That feels like an oddly specific plan of attack. Especially since there hasn’t been much buzz with Smith and the Bears leading up to this recent run. Suddenly, I’m curious about the fit.

Smith, 22, was a star at Georgia. He was part of a team that won a pair of national titles in 2021 and 2022. When he was on the field, Smith was a stud, picking up 12.5 sacks, 20 tackles-for-loss, and 110 total tackles over the course of 38 games in four seasons. Sure, Smith’s 2022 season was cut short due to a torn pectoral muscle, but he put up 7 tackles-for-loss and 3 sacks in 8 games. Racking up splash plays in limited action for a high-profile SEC powerhouse is something that’ll grab anyone’s attention. And it certainly makes Smith an interesting prospect worth digging in on ahead of the NFL Draft.

However, I have questions regarding Smith’s fit. Based on a limited sample of draft picks made and free-agent acquisitions brought into Halas Hall during the Ryan Poles era, the trends suggest the Bears have an affinity for lengthy players. The likes of Tremaine Edmunds (on the defensive side) and Braxton Jones (on the offensive side) come to mind here. But Smith checks in at 6-2 and 238 pounds. Height doesn’t measure heart. Or skill. However, size is a notable box that Smith isn’t checking.

Then again, Smith’s showing at the NFL Scouting Combine was impressive. Smith ran the 40-yard dahs in 4.39 seconds, put up a 41.5-inch vertical jump, and 10-foot, 8-inch broad jump. In other words, between testing and the tape, Smith’s size might not be the deal-breaker we might otherwise expect. Even still … I’m not totally sold on drafting Smith as the best use of a first-round pick. This isn’t to say I’m not open to it. After all, I spent a healthy chunk of my football life watching 6-1, 268-pound Dwight Freeney wreck opposing offensive linemen, ball carriers, and quarterbacks over the years. Let this serve as a reminder that size isn’t everything, no matter what you’ve read on the internet.

By hosting Smith for a top-30 visit, Chicago’s front office is going the extra mile to get a better feel for the prospect. These top-30 visits might not be predictive of what the Bears will do. But that they’ve been bringing in offensive and defensive linemen in waves suggests they know those position groups need work. The Bears being thorough also hints they’re willing to exhaust all options before attacking those spots in the draft. Perhaps isn’t your cup of tea as a prospect. Maybe he doesn’t fit the mold of what we expect. But that might not matter if he knocks the Bears’ socks off in this interview process. It’ll be fascinating to follow Smith’s draft status. And not just leading up to draft day either. Because he is now officially on our radar as a potential Bears draft target.

For more from Kaplan, check out the REKAP below:

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Author: Luis Medina

Luis Medina is a Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at@lcm1986.