The 2016 NFL Draft is almost here and one of the most tragic stories is that of former Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith. The backer appeared to all but secured himself a sure top ten selection with his tremendous athleticism; however in the last game of his college career in a bowl game against rival Ohio State, he tore his ACL and MCL. I’m no doctor, so let’s concentrate what shows up on his college tape. After reviewing his 2015 games against Ohio State, Texas, U Mass, USC, and Clemson, it was clear that the talented young rookie has the required skills to play at the next level. These are my thoughts:
LB-Jaylon Smith, Notre Dame 6′ 2″ 223 lbs.
Cons: The knee injury certainly puts a damper on his entire 2016 season (according to reports most NFL teams do not believe he will play in 2016) and the rookie could have further complications down the road with the knee. Smith is a bit light (223 lbs.) and short (6′ 2″) to play linebacker at the next level; this was evident at times near the line of scrimmage when the defender sometimes got mauled by the bigger, more athletic offensive linemen. He needs to improve on his block shedding and overall power, even though he has a decent initial punch. The backer has a bad habit of leaving his feet too often lunging at the ball carrier, when perhaps if the former Golden Domer pursued a step or two farther Smith would secure the tackle. He also missed eleven tackles last season according to nfl.com.
Pros: When fully healthy, the young backer moves sideline to sideline showing off a good motor; there were a few games he chased the ball carrier fifty yards downfield to stop a score. Smith flows well to the ball with good flexibility and balance. The former Golden Domer sees the field well and shows tremendous burst/speed in pursuit of the pigskin. He has a high football IQ, uses solid tackling technique when not leaving his feet, and is versatile enough to play any inside or outside linebacker spot. Although, the backer might be better off protected by a defensive line in a 4-3 scheme.
Smith excels against the pass. He drops back into coverage quickly and breaks on the ball post-haste. The backer showed off his athleticism covering the slot receiver for much of the time with Notre Dame. When rushing the passer, the defender could attack the middle or on the edges. Smith slipped around or thru blockers to create pressure. At the times he couldn’t get to the quarterback, the former Golden Domer would get his arms up to knock down the ball.
Overall impressions: His significant injury makes his fantasy impact near zero in year one. If Smith fully recovers, he could have a Tasmanian Devil-like impact on your dynasty fantasy defense. Although, I would be hesitant to draft him before five or six other linebackers get drafted, considering his reliance on his athleticism and lack of size.
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