It’s one thing to seek out edge rush help and have that spot listed first on mock draft boards involving the Los Angeles Rams. Fans have pleaded for an extra quarterback attacker to help alleviate some stress on Aaron Donald and add a needed pass rush specialist.
But it’s another when that defender mocked to the Rams at No. 36 overall on Monday, February 13 — in day one of the offseason period — has been compared to a past beloved member of the Rams. He’s one who won the NFC title with the franchise back in the 2018 season: Samson Ebukam.
Chad Reuter, nfl.com draft expert, has the Rams taking Nolan Smith out of back-to-back national champion Georgia as the fourth selection of the second round in his newest mock draft released after the Super Bowl.
But if the Rams were to take the long and athletic 6-foot-3, 235-pound two-time national champ and reteam him with cornerback Derion Kendrick, then L.A. could have another Ebukam on their hands per one more draft expert.
Smith Should Translate Skills to Pros, Draft Expert Says
Reuter is one draft expert high on Smith and believing the Georgia Bulldogs’ next trip to SoFi Stadium will be in a Rams uniform. After all, his last college football appearance was on the sidelines watching his Bulldogs demolish Texas Christian for the national title in Inglewood.
Meanwhile, fellow nfl.com draft colleague Lance Zierlein of nfl.com is the one who likens Smith’s intangibles and game to the former Rams starter — who spent four seasons with the team and went to the playoffs three times in L.A. Ebukam went on to start in 35 of 64 games for the Rams per Pro Football Reference after coming over via the fourth round of the 2017 draft — as one of the first draft picks of the Sean McVay era.
Ebukam at the time was considered a thin defender for his spot but would go on to produce 14 of his 23.5 career sacks with the Rams. And while he’s a part of a deep defensive line rotation with the rival San Francisco 49ers, Ebukam has still produced his best tackle campaigns and snatched his lone NFL interception with the Rams.
Smith is walking into the league as a relatively smallish defender but one who is cat-quick and disruptive when utilized. Here’s what Zierlein wrote in his evaluation of the Bulldog star:
“Lower weight class edge defender with the toughness to mix it up with bigger players. Based purely upon his sleek but smallish frame, one might expect him to be more effective as a rusher than run defender but the opposite is true. Smith is hard to move off of his spot due to his technique and leverage, and he can be disruptive when firing into gaps. He can get off the mark as a rusher, but lacks the counters and contact balance to consistently assault the pocket at a high rate. Smith falls below the size standards some team might have for a 3-4 outside linebacker, but he plays team-first defense with quality technique that should help him translate to the pros.”
Even with the size dilemma, the belief is there that Smith is the one who can unleash a new wave of quarterback pressure on the Rams defense.
Scout Sounds Off on Smith
Meanwhile, one NFC team national scout addressed Smith’s game to Zierlein. He likes the grit of the Southeastern Conference (SEC) defender. But the weight is a different take.
“You worry about him holding up for 17 games with his size. I’m not worried about the toughness, but I just don’t know if he can carry more weight without it slowing him down,” the national scout said.
Regardless, Smith could give the Rams a long-awaited Ebukam-type for “A.D.” and the defense. And while Smith’s name has been linked to the Rams before during in-season mock drafts, he’s the first name mentioned by Reuter on the first official day of the 2023 offseason.