2. Nolan Smith Challenges for DROY
Eagles fans were overwhelmed with euphoria when Nolan Smith fell to the team at No. 30 during April’s draft. After all, several mock drafts had the former Bulldog going much earlier in the opening round.
But a good chunk of the post-draft spotlight was put on ex-Georgia teammate Jalen Carter, whom the Eagles drafted at No. 9. It isn’t shocking given that Carter was one of the top defensive prospects in the draft class and is expected to be a top defender for years to come.
But sometimes all a player like Smith needs is the perfect opportunity to showcase their true potential.
That’s exactly what he got when sophomore linebacker Nakobe Dean injured his ankle during training camp. Although Dean is expected to make a full recovery sooner than later, the extra reps allowed Smith to prove that he’s capable of fitting in with the starters.
It’s only another example of Smith putting in hard work at practice. He already dazzled teammates and coaches alike back in July with his ability to get past the offensive line.
Opposing offenses are going to have their hands full with Philly’s defense this year. The plethora of elite talent up front means that Smith will have his opportunities to create havoc, whether those are self-created chances or because offensive lines can’t keep up with all the moving pieces.
As it stands, the 22-year-old has the ninth-best odds (+2000) to win the 2023 Defensive Rookie of the Year trophy, per FanDuel Sportsbook. Those odds could change quickly, though, if Smith lives up to the hype.