49ers.com runs down the list of top players in the 2016 NFL Draft. We continue our "Meet the Prospect" series with a high-risk, high-reward athlete, Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith.
Before the Fiesta Bowl in January, virtually every analyst projected Smith to be a top-10 pick in the draft. Unfortunately the promising young linebacker sustained a serious knee injury in the game against Ohio State. Smith suffered a torn ACL/LCL in his left knee, an injury that reportedly included nerve damage.
The timetable for Smith's recovery is still uncertain. He is, however, expected to miss the entire 2016 season. That news, coupled with reports that some scouts are worried he might never play again, has Smith's draft stock in foggy territory. He could go as early as the second round or as late as the sixth or seventh.
When healthy, Smith's potential is unlimited. He has even been likened to a young Patrick Willis. At Notre Dame, Smith was a consensus All-American who became the second player to win both the high school and college Butkus Awards as the nation's top linebacker. He recorded 112 tackles as a sophomore and 113 as a junior.
Arm length: 33 inches
Hand Size: 9 1/2 inches
NFL.com Pro Comparison
Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson
Best College Game
As a sophomore in 2014, Smith posted a career-high 14 tackles, including 2.5 for loss and a sack, to help the Fighting Irish defeat rival Stanford, 17-14. Notre Dame limited Stanford to just 47 yards rushing thanks in part to Smith being a consistent presence behind the line of scrimmage.
Mock Draft Connections
NFL.com's Chad Reuter – No. 57 overall pick (Green Bay Packers)
Fox Sports' Peter Schrager – No. 62 overall pick (Carolina Panthers)
ESPN's Todd McShay – No. 78 overall pick (New Orleans Saints)
What the Media is Saying…
"In this day and age of "tweeners" being labeled "hybrid" players, Smith is the rare commodity who is truly hybrid in the sense that he has the athleticism, speed and physical makeup to play any linebacker spot in either the 3-4 or the 4-3. News regarding Smith's injury and potential issues surrounding recovery have created doubt regarding his draft stock and his final landing spot will be determined by a team's medicals. Without the injury issues, he's one of the top player's in this draft." – NFL.com's Lance Zierlein
"Smith is working out diligently, but there are no guarantees. This is a blow to a player -- and any NFL team that wanted him -- whose various abilities are compared to Patrick Willis and Von Miller. Smith was an every-down linebacker who held up against running plays and showed great instincts covering receivers. Smith is Notre Dame's top tackler since 2014 with crazy closing speed that usually ended with a violent hit." – CBS Sports' Dane Brugler
Smith's older brother is Rod Smith, a running back for the Dallas Cowboys. The elder Smith went to school at Ohio State and finished his career with 549 rushing yards on 107 carries with 10 touchdowns. Another fact is that Jaylon Smith worked at Burger King while in high school to help pay for his car. When Notre Dame coaches visited him on a recruiting trip, Smith told them he simply liked to work with people.