Jaylon Smith   LB   Notre Dame

Jaylon is an outstanding player with the speed and size to impact at the next level as a playmaker at any linebacker position. He can be used in single coverage against Tight Ends because of his burst, speed and ability to read the offense and react. He is a quick twitch athletic with the reaction talent to adjust on the fly to what is happening in front to him. Jaylon can drop down and rush the passer (if need be) or be used in blitz and stunts because of his quick hands, feet and strength to get on a bigger player with the suddenness that surprises them. He has those long arms that allow him to trail in coverage and still make a play on the ball and shed blocks to make tackles. He reminds me a lot of the underrated Patriotsí LB Dontía Hightower and the top rated Panthersí LB Luke Kuechly except, unlike Hightower and like Kuechly, Jaylon can make plays behind him. Like Hightower and unlike Kuechly, Jaylon can be used on the line (out wide) to rush the passer because he is more stout against the run than Kuechly. Whew! As confusing as that sentence might be, the end result is that Jaylon will be an impact playmaking player no matter how you use him on defense for the team that selects him.

I think teams might like it if he was just a tad taller and with more length to use him sometimes on the line in a down position but Iím really nit picking here. Of course his injured knee and its health will affect where Jaylon will be selected but once he heals he should be an impact player for your defense. Jaylon also will impact more in a 2-gap defense that allows him to run free and not have to deal with a lot of big offensive lineman coming out to the second level.

I donít think there is a better linebacker in this draft than Jaylon. Although there are a lot of good ones, there is not one better in my opinion. He can play in any style of defense and at any one of the linebacker positions. Jaylon is so quick and stout against the run that you could even use him lined up in a 4-3 defense (lined up wide) and I just bet he would remind a lot of people of former Colts and now Cardinals DE/LB Dwight Freeney if thatís what you needed. For me, I donít care what position he plays -- I just draft him really early and let the coaches figure it out. There is concern about how extensive his injury is and how well it is healing, but itís not an injury that others with Jaylonís work ethic and character, have not been able to come back from and been impact players. If the injury is a concern it will drop him in this draft and some lucky playoff team will select him, let him heal and be right back in the playoffs once again. Thatís how the smart teams who draft in the back part of the 1st round stay drafting in the back of the 1st round year after year.

Drew Boylhart  FEB.2016