Watching the NFL Combine from inside Lucas Oil Stadium is a rather surreal experience.
Instead of the raucous atmosphere you usually see in an NFL stadium, it is a much more subdued, even sterilized environment. The only sounds you really hear are the instructions from the NFL coaches and scouts running the drills, and sometimes the exasperated exclamations of the prospects after a dropped pass, a slow 40-yard dash time, or something else. There were moments when an impressive drill drew the attention of the fans in attendance, or even the journalists in the building, but for the most part, Thursday afternoon at Lucas Oil Stadium was more subdued than your usual NFL environment.
That near silence, however, could not overshadow the day that Georgia pass rusher Nolan Smith had on Thursday afternoon.
Smith posted a blazing-fast 4.39 40-yard dash, and when you added in the 41.5-inch vertical that he posted, it added up to a bit of NFL Combine history. As noted by Rich Eisen during the broadcast, Smith became the heaviest player in Combine history to post a sub-4.4 40-yard dash, along with a vertical of more than 40 inches.
Smith weighed in at 239 pounds before testing on Thursday.
Both his vertical, and his 40-yard dash, were the fastest of the defensive linemen who tested on Thursday. He also posted the third-best broad jump of the group, which measured in at 10’8:
Nolan Smith: ATHLETE— NFL (@NFL) March 2, 2023
: #NFLCombine on @nflnetwork
: Stream on NFL+ pic.twitter.com/4qTdp9MylL
This is the kind of performance that can see a player force their way into the first round of the NFL draft. Coming into the 2022 season, Smith was considered a potential first-round prospect, but a torn pectoral muscle suffered in November cost him the rest of his season for the Bulldogs.
That saw his draft stock, which according to the mock drafts accumulated by NFL Mock Draft Database had been inside the first round, start to slip towards the second:
However, a performance like this likely sees that stock take another turn, this time higher into the first round.
It is worth noting that Smith’s size makes him undersized by defensive end standards. As noted by Kent Lee Platte and his Relative Athletic Scoring, Smith’s testing was in the elite range, but his weight is undersized for a pure defensive end:
Nolan Smith #RAS so far. (!)— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) March 2, 2023
*Splits Projected pic.twitter.com/pULtq3vX1o
Someone else that posted similar measurables? Someone that Smith is drawing comparisons to. Haason Reddick, he of the 16-sacks season this past year for the Philadelphia Eagles:
Nolan Smith vs Haason Reddick pic.twitter.com/LQfjAcwDwE— Alex (@Dubs408) March 2, 2023
Perhaps the most notable aspect of Smith’s day? How his 40-yard dash compared to some NFL wide receivers:
Nolan Smith vs. Stefon Diggs and DeAndre Hopkins.— NFL (@NFL) March 2, 2023
WOW. @GeorgiaFootball @SmithNoland2
: #NFLCombine on @nflnetwork
: Stream on NFL+ pic.twitter.com/3C104LFCqR
However you slice it, a very strong day for the Georgia pass rusher.