Throughout the 2015 college football season, most Colts fans weren't specifically focusing on Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith as a potential draft choice because it was common knowledge that he would almost certainly go in the top ten of the draft. Many even suggested that he was the best player in the 2016 NFL Draft, but then, unfortunately, he was injured in the bowl game against Ohio State.
Since then, we've been keeping an eye on him, as at first it seemed like he might really be available for the Colts at number 18, and now the question is just where he will in fact be taken in the draft. Smith suffered a torn ACL and LCL in his knee during the bowl game, but more serious is the concern teams reportedly have regarding potential nerve damage. The question that many are wondering is whether Smith will ever be the same player again. The medical checks at the Scouting Combine didn't sound too positive, and it doesn't sound like the re-checks just recently were much more optimistic. ESPN's Adam Schefter reported last night that Smith is expected to miss the entire 2016 season and "teams are unsure when he will play again." That's not good news for the linebacker's draft stock.
A few days ago, CBS Sports' Dane Brugler wrote about how there are still concerns about Smith's knee and potential nerve damage after the medical re-checks, saying that the nerve concern is the big issue right now and is what is expected to sideline Smith in 2016, and it's also what is leading to so much uncertainty. Teams aren't sure whether Smith will return to form when he does return to the field (thought by many to be 2017, but at this point uncertain), and according to Brugler, that's the reason why "there is a good chance Smith could slip to day three of the NFL Draft."
It's such a tough and unfortunate situation for a very talented young player, but when it comes to the Draft, the question now becomes when a team will take a chance on him. It's looking unlikely that it will be round one, but what about on day two? It seems like there would be a real possibility of Smith going in either the second or third round, as all it takes is one team to have faith in him and draft him. He's such a talented player that some team may very well take the risk.
But there also is that possibility that he could slip to day three. And if Smith continues to fall in the NFL Draft, the Indianapolis Colts need to be keeping a close eye on the situation to determine when would be the best time to jump on the talented player if he's still there. The Colts have picks in every round but the sixth round, and while they only have a limited number of picks this year (six of them), guys on day three of the draft are never even guaranteed to make the roster in the first place (especially seventh rounders, which is why this article title was "when" and not "if," as there's not even a question to me that there will come a point in the draft when the Colts should take him. The only question is when). Taking a guy like Jaylon Smith to stash on IR for a year while hoping he can return to form next year would seem to be a wise investment with one of their picks on the third day of the draft. When it comes to the second day and rounds two and three, there is a lot more room for discussion as to when a team should take Smith, but for a team desperate for defensive playmakers like the Colts are, they need to at least consider it.
Without knowing the exact medical reports or having the information that teams have, I don't know if I could make an accurate judgment as to when the Colts should draft Jaylon Smith. But what I do know is that, though the Colts need players who can contribute right away, there aren't going to be any better players on days two or three of the draft (or really, even in round one) than Smith when fully healthy. There's some point, then, where the potential value of grabbing him in the draft outweighs the risk of him perhaps never reaching the same level again. And that point is exactly what the Colts need to figure out heading into the Draft. What do you think that point should be for them?