Cincinnati Bengals: Why Jaylon Smith May Be Worth the Risk

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Sep 19, 2015; South Bend, IN, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish linebacker Jaylon Smith (9) recovers a fumble during the second half at Notre Dame Stadium. Notre Dame defeats Georgia Tech 30-22. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 19, 2015; South Bend, IN, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish linebacker Jaylon Smith (9) recovers a fumble during the second half at Notre Dame Stadium. Notre Dame defeats Georgia Tech 30-22. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports /
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I’m sure those who know me will say I’m being a total Notre Dame homer for this one, but I really do believe this is a conversation worth having.

I’ve been very fortunate in my career of covering Notre Dame to see a lot of very talented kids come through the university, but I can’t tell you one player that stood out more than linebacker Jaylon Smith. Jaylon is very young, 20 years old, and had it not been for a freak injury in the 2016 Fiesta Bowl vs Ohio State, would be a top 5 pick in this year’s NFL Draft.

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There are definitely things going against Smith here obviously. There is the fact that he’s highly likely to miss the 2016 NFL season, the fact that there is nerve damage in his knee, and past cases like Marcus Lattimore do not help his argument either. But here’s what does help his case. He is a one of a kind athlete that can play east and west, he’s extremely fast, hits very hard, and has some solid ball skills.

Jaylon Smith is also a Butkus award winner, a consensus All-American, and recorded over 100 tackles his junior and senior season.

Now what does having a guy miss the 2016 season do for the Bengals? Well… Not much right away obviously, but are the Bengals really a team that needs him right away? With the skill players they have, don’t you think they can take the chance that he does in fact recover as expected after a season and steps in and contributes for 2017 and beyond? With linebackers like Vontaze Burfict, Rey Maualuga, Vincent Rey, and Karlos Dansby, the Bengals will have the depth to hold over until Smith is ready to play for sure.

You are, without a shadow of a doubt, taking a huge risk in drafting Smith, and looking at Marvin Lewis‘s history of drafting linebackers, it isn’t the greatest list of names by any means. But if you draft Smith, and he fully recovers, you most certainly hit the jackpot with this pick.

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