Jaylon Smith was once projected as a top five pick in the upcoming NFL Draft. Now, the talented prospect has fallen out of the first round because of a knee injury.
Friday, Jaylon Smith had a medical re-check in Indianapolis, and again, the highly talented prospect did not pass. In fact, the medical results still showed that Smith will most likely have to miss the entire 2016 season to recover from his knee injury.
NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport was one of the first people to report this news. He talked to multiple teams and confirmed most teams’ beliefs that Smith will not be ready to play until the 2017 season.
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Jaylon Smith tore his ACL and MCL knee ligaments in the Fiesta Bowl against Ohio State. As soon as the injury happened, Smith once unquestionable draft stock became constant debate topic among draft experts. Analysts are well aware of his talent, but his knee injury has made him a risky prospect to draft.
Before the injury, Smith had built quite a resume for himself at Notre Dame. In three years with the Fighting Irish, Smith recorded 284 total tackles, 23.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks. In his final year at Notre Dame, Smith’ dominance earned him the Butkus Award, which is given to the best linebacker in college football.
Smith has tried his best to keep his draft stock high. He appeared at the NFL scouting combine to meet with NFL teams, but ultimately could not avoid questions about his knee.
So how far will Smith drop in this year’s NFL draft? Some scouts still believe a team late in the first round while others think he will fall as far as the third round. Both of these scenarios are very reasonable outcomes.
Last year, the Cincinnati Bengals drafted an injured player in the first round and did not use him that season. They drafted Cedric Ogbuehi, who was still recovering from a knee injury at the time. Ogbuehi sat out the 2015 season. This is a rare example because the Bengals already had depth on the offensive line so there was no pressure to play Ogbuehi immediately.
If a team wanted to do this for Smith, the team needs to already have good inside linebacker depth. Unfortunately, not many teams have this luxury, and the teams that do have glaring needs elsewhere.
The more likely scenario for Smith is he falls out of the first round. Prospects who have failed draft physicals traditional fall into the second or third round. In 2015, Alabama’s Cyrus Kouandjio failed his draft physical because of knee concerns and fell into the second round. Similarly, in 2011, Da’Quan Bowers was a projected top five pick. However, knee concerns cause his stock to fall. He ended up being taken in the second round.
Overall, the most likely scenario for Jaylon Smith is he will fall out of the first round and be taken in the second round. There is still money to be made as a second round pick, but it is nowhere close to the money that he would have made as a top five pick. It is amazing how one unlucky break could cost Smith millions in salary.