NFL teams like the Bears might understandably be hesitant to draft injured former Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith given the on-field and PR hits that come with drafting a guy who doesn't play a down in his first season. Wide receiver Kevin White represents a cautionary tale.
But NFL.com draft analyst Mike Mayock said in a conference call Tuesday that Smith, who tore his ACL and LCL in the Fiesta Bowl loss to Ohio State on Jan. 1, should still be considered by teams in the market for a franchise-altering talent.
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"This kid is so good that if his medicals are good, you have to take a big-picture look at him; by that I mean two years from now," Mayock said. "You might have one of the two, three, four best linebackers in football. You might have to wait a half-season for him. I’m sure every team is going to have a different answer to that, and I don’t know what Chicago’s might be.
"But if he has a clean medical and it says you’re going to get him for a half-season and then he’s going to be fine, then yeah, I think you pull the trigger on a kid like that.”
Smith is one of two players to win both the high school and collegiate Butkus Award (former Notre Dame and current San Diego Chargers linebacker Manti Te'o is the other) and was a consensus All-American in 2015. He's ranked as the 14th-best prospect in the 2016 NFL Draft by Rotoworld's Josh Norris.