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Scouting the NFL Draft: LB Jaylon Smith

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Jaylon Smith, LB, Notre Dame
Ht. 6'2", Wt. 223, Arm: 33", Hand: 9 ½", Bench: -
40 yd: -, 10 yd.: -, 3 Cone: -, Vertical: -, Broad: -
Games Watched: Texas, Clemson, USC

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Jaylon Smith was named Notre Dame's starting outside linebacker as a freshman in 2013 and recorded 67 tackles, 6.5 TFL, forced a fumble, broke up three passes and intercepted one. During the next two seasons, he notched 226 tackles, 18 TFL, 4.5 sacks, 7 passes defended and two forced fumbles and became widely regarded as one of the country's most versatile defenders.

Smith finished his junior season by being named a consensus All-America and semifinalist for the Bednarik Award (best defender), the Butkus Award (best linebacker) and Lott IMPACT Trophy (best defender). He tore his ACL and LCL in the first quarter of the Fiesta Bowl in a loss to Ohio State, but reportedly underwent successful surgery performed by a Cowboys' team doctor.

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Strengths

• Size - Ideal frame and length
• Athleticism - Freak
• Pass Coverage - Good feet/hips, covers like a safety
• Speed - Sideline to sideline, closes quickly
• Agility - Moves like a wide receiver
• Space - Uses his speed, quickness well
• Pass Rush - Looks like he could be a rush LB if he wanted
• Intelligent - Disciplined, quickly recognizes plays

Weaknesses

• Hand Use - Poor at shedding blockers
• Size/Strength - Needs to add some weight
• Aggressiveness - Doesn't attack like capable

Verdict: First-Round Pick*

The thing that jumps out when watching Smith in games is his potential. He needs to add good weight and use his hands better, but his frame, speed and ability in space are top notch. I agree with the scout who reportedly compared Smith to Chiefs LB Derrick Johnson as far as potential, but he's more like the Rams' Alec Ogletree right now.

Smith will probably be on the board at No. 4 when the Cowboys are on the clock, but they'd be better off taking another linebacker. UCLA's Myles Jack is more likely to reach his ceiling than Smith and has a higher floor. Then you factor in Smith's knee injury, and he becomes a better option if the Cowboys decide to trade back into the teens.

*Reports indicate Smith might have suffered some nerve damage and could miss the 2016 season. If true, Smith could drop into the third or fourth round.

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