There are four months until the 2016 NFL Draft, and we might already have the first shake-up. Notre Dame junior linebacker Jaylon Smith suffered a knee injury in the Fiesta Bowl, and Irish head coach Brian Kelly described it after the game as significant. Smith will likely undergo an MRI to determine the extent of the damage, and we'll hear more about his status in the next couple days.
Smith has been mocked in the top ten in many mock drafts, and is viewed by many as the top pure linebacker in the draft. Plenty love him, with former NFL scout Daniel Jeremiah even comparing his explosiveness to that of Patrick Willis. That's certainly a significant comparison.
The San Francisco 49ers have NaVorro Bowman at inside linebacker, to go along with Michael Wilhoite, Gerald Hodges, and Shayne Skov. Hodges is signed through next season, and will likely get a significant opportunity to compete next to Bowman. However, some think the 49ers would have considered Smith with their first round pick.
A lot of #49ers beatwriters also think the injured Notre Dame player, lb Jaylon Smith, could win up as the team's first-round pick.— Matt Barrows (@mattbarrows) January 1, 2016
The pictures of Smith's injury are not pretty. It's not quite what we saw with Bowman in 2014, but it's not good. Maybe he gets lucky and avoids a lengthy rehab process, but it doesn't sound good for now. He is a junior, so technically he could return for another year. However, if he decides to forego his senior season, it will be interesting to see what happens with his draft stock. If he slips, where does someone roll the dice on him as a potential medical redshirt?