Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith, who some had pegged as a target for the New York Giants with the 10th overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, has nerve damage and will miss at least the 2016 season, per Ian Rapoport of NFL Network.
Difficult day for #NotreDame LB Jaylon Smith, who had his medicals. Ankle & knee nerve issues, teams believe he's out for 2016 -- at least— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) February 26, 2016
It was a long day of speculation regarding Smith, who suffered a torn ACL and MCL on New Year's Day. Smith, some have said, could have been the first overall pick if he had remained healthy.
Now? Who knows.
Smith had posted a video walking without a brace earlier on Friday, and it set off a variety of speculation.
Amazing walking without the knee brace six days after being restricted for six weeks and feels fantastic! pic.twitter.com/dAW8OW09Ke— Jaylon Smith (@thejaylonsmith) February 24, 2016
Former NFL team physician Dr. David Chao, who worked for the San Diego Chargers for many years, was the first to speculate about potential nerve damage. Chao opined that Smith has a "long road" ahead to recovery and that his draft stock may have taken a huge hit.
FOX Sports also speculated that Smith may need a "redshirt year."
Smith gave conflicting statements about possible nerve damage.
"No, the nerve wasn't stretched at all. It's just the healing game. That's all. It's a process. I'll be back 100 percent. We just don't know when," Smith said. "I'm hoping to go top 10. I view myself as the best player in the draft."
Then Smith said this, which may indicate there was nerve damage:
"I feel great. There's no soreness in the knee or there's no pain. I've been off pain pills for almost a month. It's the matter of the recovery process. I don't know when the nerve and everything will heal."
With all of this uncertainty now, however, it is anybody's guess as to where he will be drafted. I can't, however, imagine the Giants taking an early risk on him.