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2016 NFL Draft: Should the Giants roll the dice on Notre Dame LB Jaylon Smith?

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Jerry Reese and the Giants need solid hits on as many of their picks as possible in the 2016 draft. Should they take a swing on Jaylon Smith or let him pass?

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

So far in our profiles of potential draft picks for the New York Giants, we have mostly stuck with prospects who were playing in either the East-West Shrine Game or the Senior Bowl.

Breaking with that today, we'll take a look at a player who is starting to crop back up in mock drafts, Notre Dame linebacker, Jaylon Smith.

For nearly all of 2015, Smith was very highly thought of, and a sure-fire Top-15, or even Top-10 pick. However, he tore his ACL and MCL in Notre Dame's bowl game against Ohio State. Since then, a report has surfaced that Smith could be ready to start the 2016 NFL season. That report was the catalyst for his re-appearance in mock drafts.

But can the Giants afford to take on a risk like Smith?

Measurables

Height: 6-foot-3

Weight: 240 pounds

40 Time: ???

Pros

  • Prototypical linebacker. Can play nearly any position in almost any scheme, on any down.
  • Great instincts and a high football IQ. He almost always takes accurate first steps and is moving toward the play almost immediately.
  • Electric "quick-twitch" player. Flies around the field and is a true "sideline to sideline" player who can appear on your screen from out of nowhere.
  • Capable and disciplined in both man and zone coverage.
  • Sure tackler, wrapping up whenever possible.
  • Very high motor, will run down breakaway plays and is always hustling to the ball.
  • A physical linebacker who can "stack and shed" blockers when working downhill.
  • Very, very productive. Racked up 225 tackles the previous two years as a starter.

Cons

  • The knee injury is by far the biggest question when it comes to Smith. How well will he recover? How long will it take? Will he be the player he was again? What are his odds of re-injury?
  • While he is a sound tackler, he sometimes puts himself in a bad position to make a form tackle.
  • Could stand to get stronger to take on bigger blockers.

Prospect Video

Big Board Rankings

Mocking The Draft -- No. 9

CBS -- No. 27

Draft Tek -- No. 18

Does He Fit with The Giants?

Up until New Years Day of 2016, I would have had to smack myself for even asking this question. Jaylon Smith had the tools to be on the field with the likes of Patrick Willis or Luke Kuechly and not look out of place. Smith was the linebacker Giants fans have been yearning for since Carl Banks was drafted.

As of 2016? That is an entirely different question, one we can't answer just yet and might not be able to answer with the information available on the outside. I'd like to think he is.

Final Thoughts

No prospect has caused me more pain this year than Jaylon Smith. First, it was because scouting him was something like football torture: For most of the season Smith was my favorite prospect, and a player I desperately wanted to be a Giant. But also, for most of the season, I didn't want to see the Giants do badly enough for him to be in the draft conversation.

And, of course, now that the Giants have "earned" the opportunity to draft Smith, he has suffered a very serious knee injury.

One thing is for sure: the Scouting Combine is going to be huge for Smith. While many deride the combine as the NFL's overrated "Underwear Olympics", the original purpose of the combine, and one still one of its most important functions is for NFL teams to gather and share medical information on prospects. In some cases, this has been life saving -- such as when the Combine medical screening found cancer in Marcus Cannon -- but in this case, how Smith's knee tests could have a massive impact on his future.