One of the most popular names heading into the 2016 NFL Draft is Notre Dame Fighting Irish outside linebacker Jaylon Smith. During his last 3 seasons with the Fighting Irish, Smith amassed 284 total tackles, 23.5 takedowns behind the line of scrimmage, 4.5 sacks, and 3 forced fumbles. In his last 2 seasons, he led the Irish in takedowns with over 100 total tackles each season, filling the role former Notre Dame star Manti Te’o when he declared for the draft.
In 2014 Smith earned second-team All American Honors. In 2015 Smith was considered an All-American midseason and earned the Butkus Award as the top LB in college. But his injury during the Fiesta Bowl against Ohio State stopped him in tracks. The junior elected after the ACL and MCL tear in his left knee to declare for the draft and proceed with the lengthy rehabilitation process.
As a player, there is little to complain about with Smith other than his injury. He excelled as a wrap up tackler and had the in-game speed to race RB’s to the outside. He has a nose for finding ball carriers and even has the tools to be an effective pass rusher. What is even more attractive about him is his coverage ability. This dual threat linebacker not only can tackle, but can take on challenging man coverage tasks. He led the Irish with 5 passes defended in the 2015 season. Smith can operate as a three down linebacker, something the Giants sorely need.
But can the Giants land this prospect? Or rather, should they?
Smith’s injury was certainly concerning when it happened, but not taking part in the combine severely hurt his draft stock. So much so, that this elite talent could certainly fall out the first round and wait for a team to give him a call in the later rounds.
The Giants desperately need depth at the line backing position. It is unlikely that the organization would spend their first round pick on Smith, though. The organization needs immediate upgrades at the defensive line and at the safety position. In addition, it has been rumored that Smith’s injury is going to take away his rookie season as well, removing him from many team’s draft boards. However, it is impossible to deny Smith’s talent. If the Giants want to take a chance on this player, similar to their recent roll of the dice on former Boston College star Mark Herzlich, they could seriously consider nabbing Smith with a mid-round pick if he’s available.