If NFL quarterbacks felt a shiver down their spine Thursday evening, it's probably because they watched Nolan Smith at the NFL Scouting Combine. The Georgia pass-rusher put on a show in front of a wide array of the league's evaluators, ranking atop his position group on a number of individual drills. That includes the 40-yard dash.
It was during that drill that Smith officially clocked in with a blazing 4.39-second 40-yard dash, which edged out Tennessee's Byron Young (4.43) and fellow Bulldog Robert Beal Jr. (4.48), who were the next fastest. According to NFL Research, Smith's time was the second-fastest by a defensive lineman in combine history behind Virginia Tech's Amaré Barno in 2022.
What makes this run even more remarkable is that not only was Smith's time better than his fellow edge rushers, but it was better than a trio of All-Pro players who are currently in the league. Smith was faster than both Arizona's DeAndre Hopkins and Buffalo's Stefon Diggs when they were coming out of college. Diggs ran a 4.46-second 40-yard dash at the 2015 combine, while Hopkins clocked in at 4.57 seconds, well behind Smith. Oh, and he was also faster than Giants star running back Saquon Barkley, who ran a 4.40.
Nolan Smith vs. Stefon Diggs and DeAndre Hopkins.— NFL (@NFL) March 2, 2023
WOW. @GeorgiaFootball @SmithNoland2
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To add to the hilariously fast speed Smith was moving, he was noticeably upset with his results when the unofficial timer noted he ran a 4.44, which would still be an impressive sprint. When asked by the NFL Network's Stacey Dales why he was upset, he told her he "wasn't even running full speed." Smith also told Dales that he had been training in the 4.3s leading up to the combine.
Smith also led his position group in the vertical leap (41.50") and the 10-yard split (1.52 seconds). At 238 pounds, he is now the heaviest player with a 40-plus vertical and a sub 4.40 40 at the Combine since 2003, edging out D.K. Metcalf in 2019.
Smith is currently CBS Sports' sixth-ranked edge rushing prospect in this 2023 class and the 36th-ranked prospect overall. In his most recent two-round mock draft, CBS Sports Senior NFL Draft expert Ryan Wilson has Smith coming off the board at No. 32 overall to the Pittsburgh Steelers.