NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said during his annual pre-Scouting Combine marathon conference call Tuesday that former Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith might have been the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft had Smith not suffered a torn ACL and MCL during his team’s Jan. 1 Fiesta Bowl loss to Ohio State.
“If he did not get hurt, he’d be in the conversation for the first pick,” Mayock said. “That’s how good a season this kid had.”
Smith had surgery last month. His health and the chance he could miss all of his rookie season will obviously affect his draft status.
In a previous conference call, ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. said he saw Smith as a top three pick before the injury. Smith was an All-American and had 225 tackles over his last two college seasons before entering this year’s draft.
Mayock said Smith is “a little bit like Myles Jack in the sense that I saw him take a big leap forward as a full three-down linebacker this year. He’s sideline to sideline with speed. He’s as exciting a linebacker prospect as I’ve seen since Luke Kuechly as far as an inside, off-the-ball linebacker. That’s how excited I was for him.”
Jack, also an expected first-round pick, dropped out of UCLA and began preparing for the NFL last fall after suffering a season-ending knee injury. Both Jack and Smith will be at the Combine to meet with scouts and coaches as interested teams gather information and prepare to potentially make a complicated draft-day decision given their injury situations.