Potential Rams Draft Target Sends Strong Message Following Combine

Nolan Smith

Getty Nolan Smith of Georgia addresses the media at the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine on Wednesday, March 1.

Georgia edge rusher Nolan Smith had long been considered the first NFL Draft option for the Los Angeles Rams at No. 36 by various mock drafts. And that was before the national champion defender from Georgia showed off his uncanny speed during day one of drills at the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine on Thursday, March 2.

Smith not only turned heads with a scorching unofficial 4.44 time in the 40-yard dash at Lucas Oil Field in Indianapolis, but sent this strong message to Stacey Dales of the NFL Network after blazing the 40.

“I wasn’t even running full speed,” Smith boldly stated to Dales.

Smith was even captured throwing down his phone in disgust when he learned about his time, because he has an expectation of hitting the 4.3 range. But officially? He turned in a beyond impressive 4.39 time.

Still, that’s a scary thought for someone who ran a sub 4.45 to think he wasn’t running fast enough. That ought to make him even more appealing for teams who want to unleash his speed on offenses. It was a head turning day for Smith. But does it mean his name got scratched by Rams fans who hoped to see Smith in the “Rams House?”

Rams Fans Share Belief in Where Smith Will Fall

Again, Smith throughout the mock draft period had been considered the first draft pick for the Rams in the second round including national representatives USA Today and Chad Reuter of nfl.com calling him the 36th selection to L.A.

But following his epic combine day, there are Ram fans who are no longer optimistic he’ll fall to the second round. Including one who thinks Smith and two other edge rush talents won’t be around at that spot.

“I don’t know how many times I’ve seen Nolan Smith to the Rams at 36, but guess what? Not only is he not going to be there, but [Iowa State’s Will] McDonald and [Auburn edge rusher] Derick Hall probably won’t either,” one fan predicted.

One more Rams fan added “Sorry Rams fans — Nolan Smith definitely wont be there at 36 after this performance.”

With a 40-time that makes him faster than Pro Bowl wide receivers Stefon Diggs and De’Andre Hopkins and hailing from the Southeastern Conference, Smith has likely placed himself into a day one selection after being labeled a day two prospect. Daniel Jeremiah of nfl.com even has him as a top 20 prospect for the upcoming draft, plugging him at No. 20 overall as of Thursday.

Who Could Appeal to the Rams Now

A lot can still happen on April 27-28 when the draft takes place in Kansas City. But if Smith ends up going way before No. 36, who else could appeal to the Rams at that spot? Here are three possibilities including one from a familiar place for the Rams:

Calijah Kancey, Pittsburgh: Sound familiar? He hails from the alma mater of one renowned Panthers star named Aaron Donald. And, Kancey shattered Donald’s near 10-year-old 40-yard dash time for defensive tackles by running a 4.67. Kancey has near similar size at 6-foot-1, 281-pounds. Perhaps it could become fitting that a Pitt Panther can learn from another Pitt great in the “Rams House.” Kancey has even been compared to NFL Hall of Famer John Randle by Lance Zierlein of nfl.com.

Adetomiwa Adebawore, Northwestern: The Wildcat defensive end had the fastest time among the DL group with an unofficial 4.54 before Smith took the fastest title for the DL/edge rush group. But at 6-foot-2, 282-pounds and with the frame for a three-technique lineman, perhaps Adebawore could become the Greg Gaines next to Donald — especially with the unrestricted free agent Gaines anticipated to leave.

Tuli Tuipulotu, USC: Though Tuipulotu didn’t run the 40, the Trojan still showed smooth feet in the bag drills as well as a strong change-of-direction with his hips. He was also destructive toward the bags, even to those holding them. But most intriguing about Tuipulotu? He showed up at a leaner 266-pounds after playing at 290. He’s got the height and versatility to move up and down the line if taken by the Rams.

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