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Georgia Bulldogs LB Nolan Smith and QB Stetson Bennett Show that Size Isn't Everything

March 22, 2023

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With the NFL Combine and team pro days behind us, the mock draft season is in full swing. As expected, Georgia Bulldog Nolan Smith was one of the brightest stars at the NFL Combine. After an excellent Georgia career, and stellar workouts, Smith has firmly put himself in the first-round discussion and could even be selected among the top 10 in the upcoming NFL Draft.

Like the blind squirrel finding the occasional nut or the timeliness of the broken clock, sometimes this writer’s predictions hit the mark. Nolan was always expected to be drafted, but as this article explained some players that might not have ideal size for their position, have nonetheless proven on the field that they are the outlier worthy of a top pick, having demonstrated that they can thrive against the best competition despite their size.

Moreover, as NFL teams get to know Nolan, they find that he appears to be the type of player every team wants in their locker room and to represent their franchise. Interviewed after Georgia’s Pro Day, Smith, perhaps an avid Dawg Post reader, also likened himself to Von Miller – an undersized athletic freak that was a top 10 draft pick and is a future hall of famer.

Similarly, Georgia’s now two-time CFP National Championship winning quarterback, Stetson Bennett proved that his smaller stature did not hold him back from unbelievable success against the best college competition. Stetson, a 2022 Heisman finalist, has always shined the brightest on the biggest stages and, as predicted in this story, if Stetson started all 15 games in 2021, rather than the 12 he did, and was permitted to air it out a bit more, his statistics, like he and his play, would measure up favorably to the best quarterbacks in college football.


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As made clear numerous times in that piece, Bennett is not as good as Bryce Young, although we now have confirmation that he is taller. Young will likely be a top 5 or top 10 selection in the 2023 NFL Draft. Yet, as great as Young is, his slight frame certainly presents some risk to the NFL team selecting him so high. As for Stetson Bennett, ignoring his recruiting profile and focusing on his proven ability to play football, means he “should” be a third-round draft pick. Perhaps his age and a youthful indiscretion will cause him to drop to the fourth or fifth round, but that would be a mistake. 

Every year NFL General Managers wildly overdraft quarterbacks who, unlike Bennett, were not consistently good (let alone great) in college, in the hopes of finding the next outlier like Tom Brady or Josh Allen. This year’s prime example is Anthony Richardson, the athletic Florida quarterback that some want to compare to Cam Newton. The only problem with this comparison is that Cam was a great college quarterback, and Richardson was rarely even good. Yes, it is possible that Richardson is transformed into a great NFL quarterback worthy of a top draft choice. It seems equally or more likely, however, that we see what we saw of Richardson in college. His NFL floor is Jamarcus Russell, with Richardson and the General Manager that reaches for him both out of the league in a few years.

If Richardson’s potential upside is akin to Cam Newton, then Stetson’s should be Drew Brees. That is not to say Bennett is likely to be that good, but no quarterback drafted this year is likely to be that good, and even Brees himself was not expected to be what he became. The NFL “floor” for Bennett is probably a solid backup quarterback like Chase Daniel, while his (more likely) ceiling is a successful starter like last season’s surprise star Brock Purdy. There have been many diminutive quarterbacks who had college careers far inferior to Stetson Bennett’s, who continue to get chances in the NFL. A third-round draft investment on Bennett, who has wildly exceeded expectations again and again, seems pretty sound.

Those that bet against “smaller” players like Nolan Smith and Stetson Bennett, who have already proven that they are indeed the outliers, will likely continue to regret doing so. And players like Smith and Bennett will likely continue to use that doubt to fuel NFL careers that will turn out to be much better than many expect.




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