Early in Notre Dame's bowl game against Ohio State, star linebacker Jaylon Smith suffered a serious injury that required surgery and has caused uncertainty regarding where he will be drafted. If healthy, Smith would likely be in contention for the top overall pick; now? The question is how far he will fall.
According to NFL Media's Ian Rapoport, the medical examinations for Smith at the NFL Combine today weren't positive. Rapoport says that doctors don't expect him to play in 2016 (at least) due to nerve damage in his knee and ankle.
Difficult day for #NotreDame LB Jaylon Smith, who had his medicals. Ankle & knee nerve issues, teams believe he's out for 2016 -- at least— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) February 26, 2016
Smith is seven weeks removed from surgery, so he said today that he'll be re-evaluated sometime in April. At his press conference today, he told media that there wasn't any nerve damage, but later added that his brace is to help the nerve heal (he stated both times that the nerve isn't stretched). He added that he hopes to be able to play in 2016. "That's the goal," he said. "As soon as possible. I can't tell when I'll be back, but I'll be back 100 percent."
Rapoport's report late this afternoon paints a less optimistic picture, however, as it sounds like Smith does have nerve damage and is expected to miss at least the entire 2016 season. It's important to believe that different teams have different medical opinions of players, so this might not be the opinion of every team, but either way - it's not good.
If the report is true and Smith does have nerve issues and is expected to be out for the entire season, he could see a significant drop in his draft stock. Originally slated as a top-five pick and a candidate for the first overall pick, Smith has since been projected in the early to mid teens in mock drafts. With the latest information, that could drop even further. He confirmed today that he took out a loss of value insurance policy before his senior season, so financially he should be ok, but it's unclear just how much Smith could fall.
Assuming this report from Rapoport is true, it's very
possible likely that Jaylon Smith will still be on the board when the Colts pick at number 18 overall in the first round. They would be wise, then, to do their homework on Smith in the pre-draft process, particularly when it comes to the medical evaluations. Smith is a tremendous talent and a great player when healthy, but any team drafting him would have to realize that he might need a redshirt season during his rookie year in the NFL and would have to realize that there is the risk of Smith never returning to his previous form. Those would be questions the Colts would have to think through before taking Smith, who could very well be available when the Colts pick. It's likely he falls much further than that, too, depending on the medical evaluations. You can't help but feel for Smith with such an unfortunate injury, and with the recent medical reports, it sounds like he could see his draft stock plummet.