Is Notre Dame LB Jaylon Smith worth an early pick for the Ravens?

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Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith revealed on Monday that he is declaring for the 2016 NFL Draft. There was some question as to whether or not he should leave school early after he suffered a multiple ligament tear in his knee. Smith was considered to be a lock to go very early in the draft prior to his injury and may still go early afterwards.

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Notre Dame LB Jaylon Smith

Is Notre Dame LB Jaylon Smith worth an early pick for the Ravens?

The Baltimore Ravens hold the sixth pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. They also hold an early pick in the second round. If Smith is on the board, would it be worth it for the Ravens to use their second round pick on the play making linebacker?

Smith’s knee injury came early in Notre Dame’s bowl game against Ohio State. Coming into that game, Smith was viewed as one of the best defensive players in the country. He is the 2015 Dick Butkus Award winner which is given to the nation’s top collegiate linebacker. He also became the only player to win the award in both high school and college.

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly is convinced that Smith is a special player and feels his injury shouldn’t cause him to drop in the draft.

“He one of the most dynamic football players I’ve coached in 25 years,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said on ESPN’s “SportsCenter” on Monday. “I think he’s a generational player at his position. He’ll recover fine. We saw Todd Gurley have an ACL and MCL (injury); obviously, it didn’t affect his status. The NFL will be lucky to get a young man like this.”

There are many things that stand out when watching Smith play. He has the sideline to sideline range that allows him to track down ballcarriers quickly. At 6-3, 230 pounds Smith is able to take on offensive linemen and make the tackle…even if he’s engaged with them as the running back tries to run by.

Smith’s speed allows him to run with most tight ends and he can cover running backs out of the backfield. Another thing that he does well is pickup receivers as they run through his zone.

The Ravens already have one of the best young linebackers in C.J. Mosley. Mosley just completed his second season in the NFL but had some issues in coverage. Smith would bring an additional speed and athletic element to the Ravens linebacker unity. Daryl Smith will be entering his 13th season in the NFL and is taken out of the game in favor of Zach Orr on passing plays.

Selecting Jaylon Smith would give the Ravens another playmaker to pair with Mosely for years to come. The Carolina Panthers are regarded as one of the best defenses in the NFL. The heart and soul of the Panthers defense is the presence of linebackers Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis.

The San Francisco 49ers had an even better linebacker duo when they dominated on defense. Patrick Willis and Navorro Bowman were both first team all-pro’s that fueled the 49ers defense.

A good NFL comparison for Smith would be Bowman. They both play with similar athleticism and cat like quickness. The Bowman/Smith comparison is one that I made prior to the start of this past season. Ironically, Smith will be working to come back from an injury similar to the one that Bowman returned from after suffering in 2013.

Bowman was an all-pro in 2012, 2013 and once again in 2015. The fact that Bowman is a similar player and was able to regain his level of play should be encouraging to any team that is considering drafting Smith.

Smith found out after surgery last week that he didn’t have any nerve damage, yet another positive. At this point, he is expected to have a full recovery. A lot of people have asked whether or not the Ravens should use an early pick on the dynamic linebacker. Like the Ravens have all year, Smith is facing adversity but is not willing to waver.

“It’s really just perseverance for me, with the adversity I’m going through right now, dealing with the knee injury,” Smith said in a video statement. “I have the same vision; it’s just a different path. I’m just really looking forward to this opportunity.”

That surely sounds like something a Raven would say and he is surely worth the pick.