Target: Jaylon Smith
School: Notre Dame
Size: 6-foot-3, 229 LBS
Projected Round: 1
The 2015 Butkus Award (nation’s top linebacker) winner is without question one of the top talents in the incoming rookie class. However, he suffered a “significant” knee injury (torn ACL and LCL) against Ohio State on January 1, which makes it tough to decide whether or not a high draft pick should be used on him.
According to Matt Miller, an NFL Draft analyst for Bleacher Report who has Jaylon Smith rated as the No. 2 overall player, the New Orleans Saints are eyeing the Notre Dame linebacker with the 12th overall pick.
With glaring holes on the defensive side of the ball, the Saints could take Smith at No. 12. It’s too early to tell whether or not he’ll be ready for the 2016 season, or if he’ll play at all next year, but reports say the rehabbing is going quite well. Still, allowing him to recover and get to 100% could take some time.
Again, with weakside linebacker arguably being the team’s biggest need, there may be no better prospect than Smith (maybe Myles Jack), who has the flexibility to play all three (or four) linebacker positions.
He has the size, speed, length, burst, pursuit, IQ, and coverage ability to be a wrecking ball to opposing NFL offenses for a very long time. Not to mention, he possesses the leadership qualities coaches look for in a player thanks to team captain experience for the Fighting Irish. Working on his strength and power won’t hurt, but that’s what the weight room is for.
Given New Orleans’ glaring need on the weakside and Smith’s endless ceiling, the talent might be too tough to pass up. Once over that injury, Jaylon Smith should have a very good career down on the bayou. Falling to the Saints at 12 is very realistic, and if Jack isn’t there, Smith could be the answer for the future.
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