For the Green Bay Packers, edge rusher is once again a position that should be addressed this offseason. In a recent mock draft from Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com, he has the Packers selecting edge rusher Nolan Smith from, you guessed it, Georgia, with the 15th overall pick.
Smith’s 2022 season was cut short due to injury, but as Jeremiah wrote, he believes that Smith has shown enough to warrant a top-15 selection. He measures in at 6’3″ – 235 pounds, which is quite a bit lighter than the typically heavier edge rushers that the Packers covet. Preston Smith, Rashan Gary, Jonathan Garvin, and Kingsley Enagbare are all over 255 pounds.
Smith was on the field for only 104 pass rush snaps over eight games this past season, but he still managed to log 19 pressures, including two sacks. Among all edge rushers, Smith ranked sixth in PFF’s pass rush win rate metric. For what it’s worth, he’s also graded out quite well as a run defender as well and has been a sound tackler.
Smith has 946 career snaps over four seasons, the bulk of which came lined up as a traditional edge rusher. His most snaps in a single season were 354 in 2021, where he tallied 17 pressures and five sacks.
For a closer look at Smith’s game, here is a snippet of what Damian Parson of The Draft Network wrote about him in his evaluation. He is The Draft Network’s sixth-rated edge rusher in this class and ranked 31st overall.
“When studying Smith, the three words I wrote down to capture/describe his game were: physical, violent, and relentless. As a result, Smith is a difficult task to block in the run game, especially for tight ends.”
“Projecting to his third year, Smith can be a full-time edge defender that will not come off the field. A fully-developed Smith can be a dangerous weapon to deploy off the edge versus opposing offenses. Smith’s ability to work well in tight quarters or in a wide-nine alignment can put offensive tackles in conflict. Having an edge defender that can drop into coverage, stuff the run, and get after the passer cannot be undervalued.”
Edge rusher depth was a big need for the Packers last offseason and remains one this year. While Rashan Gary has developed into one of the best in the game, Preston Smith may not be in Green Bay beyond the 2023 season, and Kingsley Enagbare may be better suited for a rotational role rather than as a starter. After those three, it’s a toss-up when it comes to what this room will look like this season.
Edge rusher is one of the more heavily rotated positions in football, with many teams deploying a four-man rotation. Without Gary, the Packers struggled to generate consistent pressure from this position, and when they did, it was often attributed to good coverage. On top of that, this unit as a whole can greatly improve against the run.
Other positions of need for the Packers include safety, tight end, offensive tackle, receiver, and interior defensive lineman.