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NFL Draft Scouting Report: Jaylon Smith, LB, Notre Dame

Former Notre Dame Linebacker Jaylon Smith is profiled and evaluated for the 2016 NFL Draft.


Jaylon Smith, LB, Notre Dame

Position: LB
Height: 6’2”
Weight: 240
Year: Junior
Hometown: Fort Wayne, Indiana
Experience: 3 year starter
Born 1995


(Smith was unable to participate in the NFL combine due to injury)

Career Notes:

A three-sport letterman at Bishop Luers High School in Indiana, Smith won the high school Butkus award and the state’s Mr. Football as a senior.

Started outside as a freshman at Notre Dame, and immediately recorded 67 tackles and 6.5 TFL. Smith moved inside for his sophomore season and earned second team all-America honors.

As a junior, Smith once again won the Butkus award and amassed 115 tackles. He was named a consensus all-American.

Injury Report: 

Smith tore his ACL along with his LCL on a freak play during the Fiesta Bowl against Ohio State. He underwent surgery on January 7 and is expected to make a full recovery, as there was no nerve damage. He was recently seen walking without a brace. With rehab, Smith should be able to regain his full speed and explosiveness.

UPDATE: New developments have caused many to be skeptical of Smith's recovery and recovery timetable. Smith was seen walking (in late February) with an AFO (Ankle / Foot orthotic), a device that holds the foot in place and is normally reserved for knee dislocations / achilles injuries. AFOs are often required when there are nerve issues in knee ligament tears. If Smith is indeed dealing with nerve damage, his 2016 will be lost and his career as a football player is in jeopardy. Smith put some of the best film of any prospect on tape in 2016, and hopefully won't have further nerve-related complications.

Career Stats:



1.       Getoff – 4.0/ 5.0

  • First step always lateral / forward
  • Shows good patience reading plays, maintains proper head direction, and very rarely lost in play action / misdirection
  • Good vision in coverage, good adjustments based on motion
  • Exceptional burst
  • Approaches blockers with violence
  • Very good routes to ball / pursuit

2.       Coverage – 4.0/5.0

  • Eyes, feet, and hips in sync
  • Can keep eyes in backfield while covering RB
  • Agile, good change of direction
  • Fast, can run with opponents
  • Mentally sound in coverages, adjustments, etc
  • Can successfully spy opposing qb with minimal help (Texas game)

3.       LB Technique – 4.0/5.0

  • Pass Rush – very fast, explosive off line. Can spin or “get skinny” by blockers in pursuit of qb. Finishes well. Would like to see more moves. Good bend.
  • Read and React – Reads patiently and well, takes optimal route to ball, and finishes often. Navigates crowds well. Makes tackles physically and finishes ball carrier. Feet and eyes in sync. Good range when tackling.  Uses short, choppy steps early in play/ when reading a runner. Plays extremely smart.
  • Stack and Shed – gets off blocks well / through blockers effectively. Willingly and violently meets blockers downhill. Good finisher. Occasionally late.

4.       Closing, Finishing, & Effort – 4.0 / 5.0

  • Tackles well.  Good, willing solo tackler.
  • Finishes well in space, generally finishes QBs well
  • Great burst, can overpursue but usually latches on with inside arm even if he does.
  • High motor player, Keeps looking and moving, follows plays to other side.

5.       Vision, Awareness, Football IQ – 4.5/5.0

  • Very good head direction. Eyes in right place through fakes and rarely lost. Plays screens well.
  • Executes scheme well, aware of zones and responsibilities in coverage
  • Smart ad libbing in coverage
  • Good vision and exceptional athletic ability give Smith almost sideline to sideline range
  • Extremely smart player, no penalty problems. Always seems to be seeing bigger picture on field.


The Verdict:

Smith is an instinctual linebacker who projects very well to the next level as a 4-3 outside backer or 3-4 inside backer (assuming his recovery from injury.) Smith plays smart and fast, and seemed to take his field awareness to a new level during his most recent junior campaign. Smith reads plays patiently and takes exceptional routes in pursuit. He also pursues through crowds and off of blocks very well. He is fluid and smooth in coverage, and his eyes, feet and hips are always on the same page. Smith is athletically very gifted, and his speed and agility translate his instincts into very good range. He tackles well and is a very smart player, while also being violent and bringing the desired physicality to the position. Occasionally can be overpowered, but should add weight over the next year.

Overall Grade: 4.1 / 5.0  
1st round


If drafted by the Packers:

A dream scenario for many, Smith could fall to #27 or lower because of injury concerns. Smith would plug right in next to presumably Jake Ryan in Dom Capers’ 3-4 and Clay Matthews would be able to move back outside full-time. Smith would provide a much-needed physical and coverage boost to the middle of the Packer defense. A likely scenario if the Packers draft number nine would be Smith taking over for Sam Barrington  during the 2016 regular season.





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Comments (9)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
Hematite's picture

March 18, 2016 at 04:04 pm

Perfect pick for Thompson.
GO get him Teddy!

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packrulz's picture

March 19, 2016 at 06:39 am

The possible nerve damage scares me, he will not play this year. I'd avoid him in the first round, but in the 2nd round I could see taking him.

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holmesmd's picture

March 19, 2016 at 09:31 am

It sounds like they are predicting he falls to rounds 4-7?!:( The first 2 rounds is really risk for a guy who may not ever play at his pre injury level. I would absolutely use one of our 4th Rd picks on the kid though. What an unfortunate injury for one of the best players in the country. I hope he fully recovers and I hope he plays for GB!

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4thand1's picture

March 19, 2016 at 09:43 am

I would take the gamble and draft him. He will play again and waiting a year far out ways the risk of the reward. The Packers don't get the opportunity to draft guys like this, they won't be there after the 25th or later.

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Tundraboy's picture

March 19, 2016 at 10:15 am

After 3rd round I'd go for it too. For the same reason, we rarely are in a position to draft someone with his talent. In another year even a higher pick, but seeing he probably would have to sit out a year, and our need to use our first two picks on players who could make an impact this year, have to pick him later. Hope he is still there.

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NickPerry's picture

March 21, 2016 at 07:30 am

Agreed, if I was TT I'd go get him in the 4th round but not before. I'm still trying to get over La'el Collins from last year.

Hmmm, lets see Ted, take Collins with one of the 6th rounders, the pick you haven't hit on since James Starks instead of Backman or Ringo? That way you own his rights or he'd have to sit out a year.

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jeremyjjbrown's picture

March 19, 2016 at 10:17 am

Man, all of these NFL prospects are now born after I graduated High School.

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holmesmd's picture

March 19, 2016 at 08:39 pm

I hear ya bro!;)

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wildpalms's picture

April 03, 2016 at 12:06 pm

If not Smith(even though he sits for a yr) then where
is another decent cover LB in draft?

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