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NFL Draft 2023: First-round edge prospect Nolan Smith to visit Patriots on Thursday

New England is taking a look at one of the most intriguing outside linebackers in this year’s class.

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Oregon v Georgia Photo by Paul Abell/Getty Images

The New England Patriots are busy inviting draft prospects for top-30 visits, and they have now set their sights on one of the best edge defenders in this year’s class. Georgia outside linebacker Nolan Smith will be in Foxborough on Thursday, per a report by KPRC 2’s Aaron Wilson.

Smith spent his entire four-year college career with the Bulldogs, and by his 2022 senior campaign had established himself as one of the most disruptive players in the country. A well-rounded prospect who offers an enticing blend of athletic foundation and developmental potential, he has shown his abilities both versus the pass and the run: he can set a stout edge and simultaneously also get after the quarterback.

Last year, he did that 17 times, according to Pro Football Focus: he notched a pair of sacks as well as five hits and 10 hurries. However, he also had to sit out the final seven games of the season after tearing his pectoral muscle in late October.

As part of his visit with the Patriots, Smith will likely also undergo close medical examination again. Fact is, however, he has proven himself a productive player in college football’s best conference when healthy.

His status is a question mark, but one that should not impact his draft status too much. The bigger concern might be his relatively small build: he measured at only 6-foot-2, 238 pounds at the Scouting Combine in early February.

That said, he still put on a show in Indianapolis. Smith ran the 40-yard dash in 4.39 seconds, had a 41.5-inch vertical and a 128-inch broad jump. His 9.24 Relative Athletic Score is ranked in the top 10 at his position group this spring despite his small(-ish) stature.

New England being interested in the 22-year-old therefore makes sense. At the moment, the team’s edge personnel is led by Pro Bowler Matthew Judon and Josh Uche; Anfernee Jennings and Ronnie Perkins offer depth behind them. Only Judon and the unproven Perkins are under contract beyond 2023.

Smith is the second Georgia prospect taking a reported visit with Patriots; he is joining another projected first-rounder, offensive tackle Broderick Jones. In total, the list of top-30 visits now stands at 11 deep.