The first thing people mention when discussing Notre Dame Fighting Irish LB Jaylon Smith is that he was injured against the Ohio State Buckeyes in the Fiesta Bowl on January 1st. Smith tore both his ACL and LCL in the game, and was carted off the field, much to the chagrin those teams who were eager to draft Smith in the 2016 NFL Draft.
One of those teams in dire need of a starting linebacker is the Miami Dolphins, who simply did not get enough out of guys like Koa Misi, Jelani Jenkins, and Kelvin Sheppard last season. Accoridng to sources close to Smith and his injury, the repair of both his ACL and LCL was successful, and he is expected to make a full recovery. And this is precisely why the Miami Dolphins must draft Smith if he is available with the 8th overall pick.
I understand that there is great concern around someone who has recently suffered such a gruesome injury. His injury should be monitored and watched, and he should not return to the field until he is 100% healthy in order to prevent the risk of re-injury. However, Smith is just too good to pass up on. Before his injury, many analysts and mock drafts had Smith going as the number one overall pick.
Irish head coach Brian Kelly called Smith one of the best players he has ever coached, and Smith has all of the athletic tools and skills that you could want in a modern day linebacker. He is extremely explosive, a proven tackler, and can cover anyone ranging from large tight ends to speedy runningbacks thanks to his rare mix of speed and size. Smith has the ideal build at 6-foot-3, 240 pounds and is most comfortable playing on the outside where he has the option to rush the passer.
Along with fellow OLB Myles Jack, Smith is the most ready NFL linebacker and won't need to be subbed out on third down. In three seasons with the Irish, Smith started every game and recorded 284 total tackles (23.5 for loss), 4.5 sacks, 10 passes defended, 3 fumble recoveries and 3 forced fumbles. In 2015 he was a consensus All-American and won the Dick Butkus award, presented to the best linebacker in college football.
His stat line and ability to compete stand alone and separate Smith as one of the best linebackers in the draft. His ACL/LCL should not be a reason he drops, although it likely will be one. If Myles Jack is off the board when the Dolphins pick 8th overall, they have to take a chance on Smith. He will become a beast in this league for some other team if not.