One of the most talked about prospects entering the 2016 NFL Draft, Jaylon Smith had his college career end because of a brutal knee injury. Prior to his injury, Smith was talked about as a potential top five pick but there is now talk that he could still be on the board at #20 for the New York Jets. Could Jaylon Smith be the answer to get some desperately needed youth and athleticism to the Jets linebacking corps?
Name: Jaylon Smith Position: OLB School: Notre Dame Height: 6030 Weight: 235
BACKGROUND: Three sport utility man for Bishop Luers High School in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Competed on the football, basketball, and track teams. He was awarded the Butkus Award (best high school linebacker in the country) after his senior season. A two way starter at linebacker and halfback, he led the Bishop Luers to a fourth straight state title. He finished with 72 tackles, 19.5 tackles for loss, eight sacks, and two forced fumbles on defense and 1265 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns on offense. A consensus 5-star prospect coming out of high school, Smith signed his letter of intent to play at the University of Notre Dame. Smith has started every game at linebacker for the Fighting Irish since arriving on campus in 2013.
STRENGTHS: The first thing you’ll notice while watching Jaylon Smith is his unbelievable athleticism. A true sideline to sideline player, Smith is seen all over the field chasing down the ball carrier. His coverage skills are probably the best at his position in this draft class because of his elite speed and instincts. His ability to make tackles in the open field is excellent as he keeps his hips square to the ballcarrier and stays light on his feet. Once he gets going, he seems like he got shot out of a cannon and is hard to stop with his blend of power and speed. His highly sought after versatility will have defensive coordinators in the NFL begging his GM to draft him. Smith lined up at outside and inside linebacker, strong and weak side defensive end, and he even split out to cover offensive players in the slot. At defensive end, his first step is lightning quick and is an asset to rush the passer. Also effective on blitzing as he is patient and waits for holes in the protection to open up before pursuing the quarterback. Displayed the ability to be successful as a quarterback spy, something that is slowly becoming a dire need in today’s NFL. Intelligent football player who is always aware of the down and distance, especially against the pass.
WEAKNESSES: Smith’s biggest weakness is probably his ability to get off of blocks once an offensive lineman gets his hands on him. Coming in at around 235 pounds, Smith is greatly outmatched when it comes to the big boys on the field. He gets overpowered at the point of attack and can get completely taken out of the play. Another weakness is his overly aggressive mindset. As a linebacker, you must have the attitude you are the best player on the field and that everyone fears meeting you in the hole. Smith certainly has that mindset, but his aggressiveness with his natural speed can cause problems as he will sometimes over pursue the ball carrier. A final concern about Smith is the knee injury he suffered in the Fiesta Bowl against Ohio State.PROJECTION: After all is said and done, I think Smith will end up the first linebacker taken and will be a Top 15 pick.
Photo Credit: HRGN.com