Jaylon Smith Injury Could Be Worse Than Expected: Where Will He Be Drafted?

    Reports are surfacing that former Notre Dame LB Jaylon Smith’s leg injury could be worse than expected. What will this do to his draft stock?

    February 27, 2016

    Reports are surfacing that former Notre Dame LB Jaylon Smith’s leg injury could be worse than expected. What will this do to his draft stock?

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    Just how healthy is the knee and leg of Notre Dame LB Jaylon Smith?

    Originally after he suffered the injury against Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl, speculation was that his stock wouldn’t drop too much, even though everyone knew he’d miss a chunk of time. But now it’s being reported that medical evaluations at the Combine show potential nerve damage that could keep him out for the entire 2016 season, and maybe longer.

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    Difficult day for #NotreDame
    LB Jaylon Smith, who had his medicals. Ankle & knee nerve issues, teams
    believe he's out for 2016 — at least

    — Ian Rapoport
    (@RapSheet) February
    26, 2016

    Who’s going to take the chance on him early on?

    Smith was considered a top 15 pick before going to Indy, and it’s possible he could still go that high on the hopes that he’ll return to normal, but this is a loaded draft with plenty of potential difference-makers in the top 30, and beyond.

    But it’s still early. Smith is saying there’s no nerve damage and that the leg and knee feel better than medical reports, and the short evaluations in Indianapolis certainly aren’t a deathblow to a potentially phenomenal career. After this, though, where Smith goes is going to be one of the biggest storylines over the next month. 

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    Amazing walking without the knee
    brace six days after being restricted for six weeks and feels fantastic! pic.twitter.com/dAW8OW09Ke

    Jaylon Smith (@thejaylonsmith) February
    24, 2016

    Here are the five most likely options for what happens to Smith’s NFL draft status.

    Smith is still taken where he would’ve been taken before Indy

    It’s hardly shocking news that Smith is probably going to miss the 2016 season – few thought he’d be back and ready to roll this year before the medical evaluations at the Combine. So there’s a shot a team still takes a chance on greatness hoping they’re getting a top five-caliber talent ready to roll in 2017. Jacksonville won’t do it at the five after losing last year’s No. 3 pick, Dante Fowler Jr., to an injury. Baltimore will go corner at six, and San Francisco won’t take a chance at the seven after the Marcus Lattimore gamble didn’t pay off. Miami needs a linebacker at eight. It’s possible Smith still goes here, but that’s a best-case scenario.

    Smith falls further in the first round

    It’s possible teams don’t get scared off too badly, but are freaked enough to not take the risk with a top 15 pick. So instead of the No. 5-10 range he was still projected to go after injuring his knee, he falls to an Indianapolis at 18 – the Colts need a linebacker if they don’t go O line. The Jets really need one at 20, or maybe a team blows off its needs and thinks it can get him on the cheap just before the 25. Willis McGahee famously went to Buffalo with the 23rd pick in the 2003 draft after suffering his horrific knee injury, and that worked out more than fine.

    Smith gets snapped up in a rich-get-richer scenario

    Just imagine if Seattle takes Smith with the 26th pick? Green Bay desperately needs a linebacker at the 27, and Arizona could use one at the 29. Now, think about what might happen if Carolina takes Smith and assumes he’ll eventually be the next young linebacking star to help out/step in for Thomas Davis alongside Luke Kuechly. Most frightening of all, what if the Denver defense adds Smith?

    Smith drops out of the first round

    The teams that would’ve taken Smith in Round 1 if everything was kosher then go after him in Round 2. Dallas have the right pick at the 34 to snap him up, and the Giants at 40, Bears at 41, and Rams at 43 might be thinking for the future and take a good calculated risk – one round later than they were originally thinking about picking him up.

    Smith freefalls until he becomes a nothing-to-lose pick

    Like Lattimore, the fourth round becomes no-risk/high-reward slot. Teams are going to have to do more thorough medical evaluations, but if it turns out that the knee and ankle are in even worse shape than originally speculated, he could become another Ifo Ekpre-Olomu – the Oregon corner who dropped from a possible top 40 pick to the seventh round in the 2015 draft after injuring his knee. Ekpre-Olomu collected on a $3 million insurance policy after falling, and Smith won’t fall that far, but it all depends on further medical checks.

    MORE: Big 12 Expansion: 10 Best Schools Conference Could Add


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