The 2023 NFL Draft is a really exciting one for the LA Chargers because of the variables heading into the draft. There is not an overwhelming first-round need for the Bolts, creating a situation where the team could go in a variety of directions. Heck, a trade-down is even possible for the first time ever under Tom Telesco.
Los Angeles won't trade down from the 21st pick if there is a home run prospect on the board that the team absolutely loves. While there is a lot of the draft process left to go, the 2023 NFL Combine may have given fans an idea on potential prospects the Bolts love.
And no prospect stands out more than Georgia edge rusher, Nolan Smith. Smith's sack production was not high last season (as he only played eight games) but his athleticism and traits made him a late first-round prospect. Smith clinched his future as a first-round pick with an absolute field day at the combine.
Nolan Smith ran a faster 40-yard dash than any receiver currently on the LA Chargers roster. We wish we were kidding. Smith is the heaviest player in combine history to have a sub-4.4 40-yard dash and a vertical jump over 40 inches. He is a freak athlete.
Nolan Smith has the Chargers written all over him.
Edge rusher could absolutely be a first-round selection for the Bolts in the 2023 NFL Draft. Even if it isn't, the Bolts need to take an edge rusher in the top 100 picks to round out the room, add depth and add a contingency plan for Khalil Mack.
The 2023 season is probably going to end up being Mack's last in LA as he will have a massive cap hit in 2024 and could be cut with very little dead money. The Chargers would be much better off bringing in his replacement in 2023, allowing him to develop as a rotational pass-rusher and then throwing him into the fire as a starter.
Los Angeles has not drafted many defensive linemen, particularly edge rushers, under Tom Telesco. The best teams in the league pour resources into that area of the roster and the Chargers should be taking note.
Smith has more things going for him as well. Brandon Staley has loved taking Georgia prospects in the draft, taking one in each of his two drafts as the head coach of the Chargers. Staley even hired Robert Muschamp to be a defensive quality control coach after he spent two years with the Bulldogs.
This stellar NFL Combine performance may shoot Smith too high up the draft boards and result in him not even being available with the 21st pick. But it is really hard to see the Chargers passing on him if he is there at 21.