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Jaylon Smith injury may be worse than reported, could drop talented linebacker's draft stock

The gifted linebacker may have nerve damage.

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Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Jaylon Smith is arguably the most talented linebacker in this draft class, and a surefire top 10 pick if not for his injury. That injury, however, now appears worse than we initially realized.

Smith tore his ACL in catastrophic fashion late in his senior season at Notre Dame, and that's an injury that takes a lot of time to heal. I figured early on that Smith would miss most, if not all, of his rookie season for whoever took him, but that he was such an obvious talent that he'd still wind up going in the first round. I was very skeptical of Bleacher Report draft guru Matt MIller's report that Smith would be ready for Week 1 of the upcoming season, but maybe Smith's recovery was already going splendidly.

As it turns out, that's probably not the case. Smith may have nerve damage, and while it's tough to know how long that will last and how much of an impact it will have on the Notre Dame product, it almost certainly will lengthen his recovery time. Dr. David Chao, who does armchair medical assessments on Twitter that tend to be pretty accurate, was the first to notice that Smith was wearing a particular sort of brace in a new video posted on Twitter that

I turned to Charles McDonald to try to determine what this might do to Smith's perception with the Falcons:

"If Chao is correct here, it should eliminate his name for the Falcons’ first round pick. The Falcons need someone who can play right away and Jaylon was probably going to miss a portion of the season regardless."

If Smith does fall into the second or third round—and McDonald told me he believes he's likely to fall out of the first, at least—and your medical staff feels strongly that this isn't going to ruin his career before it even gets started, I think you have to draft him. He's an obvious talent, the Falcons have used second round picks on projects two years in a row anyways, and Smith could be transformative for a defense that lacks speed and "urgent athleticism," to borrow a favorite Thomas Dimitroff phrase. There's no guarantee that will happen, though, and given how many pressing needs this team has, they may still pass.

What say you?