Draft Experts Are Crushing Eagles for Drafting Linebacker So Early

Nolan Smith looking on during Eagles vs. Browns game

Getty Nolan Smith looking on during Eagles vs. Browns game

Within the past month, several outlets focusing on the NFL draft put out pieces re-assessing the first round of this year’s draft based on player performance so far in this season. The picks they changed out included the two firsts the Eagles selected in April. Eagles fans may find what they had to say interesting, especially what they said about Eagles 30th pick, LB Nolan Smith.

Smith has only accrued just seven tackles through nine games—not very impressive for a first-rounder. The lack of production and usage has made some wonder if he was the right pick that early in the draft. Much of the speculation has less to do with the strength of Smith’s talent and more to do with the team’s needs coming into the year.

What the Experts Are Saying About Smith’s Play

Ryan Fowler at Bleacher Report gave the Eagles a “D” as a midseason grade on the pick, saying, “Philadelphia had the luxury of drafting ‘BPA’ (best player available) considering its limited roster holes, but another piece along the offensive line or a talent like safety/nickel Brian Branch could have presented a higher return on investment thus far.”

Jeremy Brener of Eagles Fan Nation spoke of Smith similarly, saying, “Smith has had to work through a stacked depth chart that has veterans Derek Barnett and Brandon Graham, both of whom are likely in their final year or two with the Eagles. That could spawn opportunity for Smith later on in his rookie contract, but for now, he has yet to make a significant impact with the Eagles in the first chunk of his career.”

Some haven’t been as kind, though. In the Yardbarker’s Draft Shuffle article, Eric Smithling says the Eagles should’ve gone with CB DJ Turner. Turner went to the Bengals in the second round, but has only allowed the lowest passer rating among rookies who’ve been targeted at least 10 times, and a completion percentage of only 45%.

Draftwire, with USA Today Sports, simply listed OL Peter Skoronski, who has been starting at left guard for the Titans, instead of Smith. Like these other outlets, Draftwire left Smith out of the first round entirely.

It’s Too Early to Tell How Good Smith Can Be

Nine games into a season seems far too early to call a player a bust, especially when he was drafted by a front office that should be the envy of the league. Since GM Howie Roseman and Head Coach Nick Sirianni teamed up they’ve brought in the likes of WR Devonta Smith (1st in 2021), LG Landon Dickerson (2nd in 2021), RB Kenny Gainwell (5th in 2021), OL Cam Jurgens (2nd in 2022), LB Nakobe Dean (3rd in 2022), and then DL Jalen Carter (1st in 2023), who was moved up in most of these redraft articles and OL Tyler Steen (3rd in 2023), who Jason Kelce praised recently.

It’s important to note that Eagles’ defensive tackle Jalen Carter was taken earlier than the Eagles’ ninth pick in all of these re-draft articles. There seems to be a consensus that the Eagles got a steal with that one. In fact, Yardbarker says he’s favored for “defensive rookie of the year,” and Draftwire said, “Carter has been the best rookie defender in the entire league.”

Regarding Smith, though, Fowler went on in his Bleacher Report midseason draft grade article, saying, “Smith had no choice in where he’d be drafted, but we can only grade him on what he’s done with his limited number of snaps. Furthermore, this grade could look drastically different in a year with both Brandon Graham and Derek Barnett set to enter free agency. His snaps will come.”

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