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Should the Broncos draft Jaylon Smith?

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Could the Broncos go after the biggest risk/reward prospect of the draft?

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Good morning, Broncos Country!

The NFL Combine medical rechecks were this week and the biggest story coming out of that is Notre Dame linebacker, Jaylon Smith. Smith was considered a top-5 prospect heading into the Fighting Irish's bowl game against Ohio State. In that game, Smith sustained an injury to his knee where he tore his ACL and MCL.

At the combine, Jaylon was optimistic about his knee, but he failed his physical with several teams and it was found that he had nerve damage, which is not a good sign. This recent recheck did not reveal anything new. According to an NFL.com article:

Although teams are still reviewing the results of Smith's recheck, several sources informed of the exam told Rapoport his knee was much the same as it was when examined at the NFL Scouting Combine in February.

The article goes on to state that the expectation is Smith will miss the entire 2016 season but could possibly be back to his old self in 2017.

So what is his "old self?" Smith checks in at 6-foot-2, 225 pounds and is considered one of the most talented players in this draft class.

Here's data from Pro Football Focus' scouting report.

Position fit:

Weak side linebacker. Potential to develop into the middle/strong side

Stats to know:

Fourth highest pass rushing productivity in the country

What he does best:

• Can play man coverage against backs, tight ends, and even slot receivers. Extremely fluid athlete that moves like a safety in the body of a linebacker
• Ability to line up between as a traditional linebacker as well as over the slot. 22 percent of snaps came outside the tackles
• Natural explosion that shines in pass rushing situations. +13.9 pass rushing grade over past two seasons (127 pass rushes)
• Elite speed to run and chase. Offensive linemen have no chance to cut him off on wide runs and he has the ability to track down running backs from behind.

Biggest concern:

• Far too timid in the run game. Will contact blockers moving backwards at times. Rarely wants to come stack an offensive lineman.
• Slow to read keys in the running game. Takes false steps much more than you’d like
• Huge missed tackle issue as a sophomore (18 MTs on 118 attempts). Remedied as a junior (9 MTs on 130 attempts)
• Serious knee injury sustained January, 1st at the Fiesta Bowl puts his rookie season and career in doubt

Player Comparison:

DeAndre Levy, Detroit Lions. Levy at the moment is far more willing to attack blockers in the run game, but I see that kind of potential from Smith when he blows up backs and tight ends as a blitzer. Both allow you to scheme differently with their coverage ability.

Bottom line:

His injury would terrify me as a GM, but we here at PFF aren’t doctors so we’ll let them figure out the long-term ramifications. A fully healthy Smith is a rare coverage tool that has tremendous value in certain defenses.

So why are we talking about Jaylon Smith? Well, the Broncos just lost their top cover LB in Danny Trevathan, and his partner inside, Brandon Marshall, is due for a big payday next year. Denver has already been looking at inside linebackers as they visited with Clemson's BJ Goodson recently (Check out more info on Goodson here).

There's no doubt Jaylon Smith would fill a need, and could fit into the Broncos, the question if you're John Elway is, what round do you draft him in?

Last year cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu slid to the 7th round after being in the conversation as a 1st round corner and tearing his ACL before the draft. Cleveland recently cut him. The other case that comes to mind is Marcus Lattimore who had a similar injury with nerve damage and the 49ers took a chance on him in the 4th round. That experiment failed, and Lattimore is out of the league.

However, there are some examples of times that gruesome knee injuries have worked out. Willis McGahee had a terrible injury in college and recovered to have a nice NFL career. Navarro Bowman recently recovered from a terrible knee injury as well and had a good year last season.

To me, this seems like a perfect way to use one of our extra draft picks as Denver is stacked with picks this year and not all of them are likely to make it onto the final 53 man roster. The range that I would like to see us take a shot on Jaylon Smith would be with our 3rd or 4th round compensatory, (much like we took a risk on Maurice Clarett with a 3rd round comp pick back in 2005 - hopefully with better results) or one of our many later round picks.

Bottom line is at the right price, Jaylon Smith could be a gamble worth taking, especially since you can just stash him on IR for a year and not take a roster spot. If anyone is in a situation to do it, it's Denver, who has a talented enough roster, plenty of draft picks, and the most secure front office and head coach in the league.

Horse Tracks

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Lindsay is a national NFL reporter based in Denver, Colo. She's also a marathoner, dog-owner and newlywed who loves documenting life on the NFL beat on Instagram.