The Chicago Bears could be ready to address the NFL’s worst pass rush in 2022 with a highly-touted EDGE rusher.
“Ahead of the #NFLDraft, @GeorgiaFootball EDGE Nolan Smith tells me the #Bears and #Eagles have been the two teams that have shown the most interest in taking him,” tweeted Heavy Sports NFL insider Matt Lombardo on April 26.
The 2023 NFL Draft just one day away. Most of the smoke around the Bears has been around offensive linemen. Ohio State’s Paris Johnson Jr. and Tennessee’s Darnell Wright have been the most consistently linked in recent days. Defensive linemen were also a primary focus. To be specific, seemingly on the interior where Jalen Carter could be the pick at No. 9 overall as well.
Smith would be an interesting choice at No. 9. He is coming off an injury-shortened season that saw him record 3.0 sacks and 7.0 tackles for loss. He made eight appearances before suffering a torn pectoral muscle. Smith measured 6-foot-2 and weighed 239 pounds at the NFL combine. He tallied 9.5 sacks total over his previous three seasons. But made waves during the festivities in Indy.
Nolan Smith: ATHLETE
📺: #NFLCombine on @nflnetwork
📱: Stream on NFL+ pic.twitter.com/4qTdp9MylL
— NFL (@NFL) March 2, 2023
“Smith posted a blazing-fast 4.39 40-yard dash,” noted Mark Schofield of SB Nation. ”When you added in the 41.5-inch vertical that he posted, it added up to a bit of NFL Combine history…Smith became the heaviest player in Combine history to post a sub-4.4 40-yard dash, along with a vertical of more than 40 inches.
“Both his vertical, and his 40-yard dash, were the fastest of the defensive linemen who tested on Thursday. He also posted the third-best broad jump of the group, which measured in at 10’8.”
Nolan Smith’s Fit in Bears’ Defense
He is built more like a 3-4 EDGE than one who puts his hand in the dirt like the Bears’ linemen do.
That could be more than enough cause to focus on another prospect. But Smith has also garnered some lofty comparisons to another freakish athlete that rushes the passer.
Dallas Cowboys star Micah Parsons.
As a former NFL Scout – – Move over Micah Parsons and get ready for Nolan Smith – – https://t.co/nQ6lIOse9A – – for the entire episode don’t forget to like and subscribe to @theformatpodcast on YouTube. #NFLDraft pic.twitter.com/UpoUmJLSNY
— FIRST ROUND MOCK (@firstroundmock) April 9, 2023
And the NFL’s second-leading sack artist (tied) last season was Haason Reddick of the Philadelphia Eagles. Smith compares favorably to Reddick who stands just 6-foot-1.
“He has always been viewed as a project who possesses rare speed and athleticism for an edge defender,” wrote Mitch Kaiser of Pro Football Focus. “The Georgia edge rusher developed more pass-rushing moves and became dominant against the run. We would love to see this progression continue into the NFL, as he has the physical tools to become an elite defensive player, whether he’s coming off the edge or slotted at linebacker.”
Teams also spend more time in sub-packages than base defense these days. This should allow for plenty of creativity in unleashing Smith were he to be the Bears’ choice.
Steelers Reached Out About Another Trade
The Bears and Pittsburgh Steelers came together on a deal bringing wide receiver Chase Claypool to Chicago. The cost was a second-round pick that lands in prime position at 32nd overall.
Note: There are only 31 picks in the first round this year. The Miami Dolphins forfeited their selection after it was found they had impermissible contact with former Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady and Denver Broncos head coach Sean Payton.
Claypool recorded just 140 yards on 14 receptions (29 targets) after being traded to Chicago.
“The playbook was completely different, the weather wasn’t the greatest. It was an adjustment but I think knowing those things we’re going to be just fine next year,” Claypool told Rachel Steinberg of Independent on April 26. “Sometimes it can take a shorter time or a longer time, but now I think having a full off-season with the Bears and then being able to play a full season with them is going to be a really great opportunity.”
The jury is still out on what looks like a win for the Steelers early on.
Now, according to ESPN draft insider Todd McShay, Pittsburgh has reached back out to Chicago and general manager Ryan Poles.
“I’ve heard Pittsburgh has contacted multiple teams, including the Bears (No. 9) and Titans (No. 11), about trading up for an offensive tackle,” reported McShay. “The Steelers need a long-term answer as protection for Kenny Pickett, and there are three potential cornerstone left tackles in this class who will be available in that range.”
The Bears have needs of their own along both lines. So whether or not they seek to make a deal remains to be seen. But that also means there are a number of directions they could go a still be successful.