In what is a terrible start to 2016 for one potential top-10 draft pick, Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly told reporters, including Doug Lesmerises of Cleveland.com (Twitter link), that linebacker Jaylon Smith suffered a “significant knee injury” during his team’s bowl game against Ohio State today.
We’ll obviously have to wait for more details on the specific nature and severity of the injury, but the fact remains that this news will undoubtedly affect Smith’s draft stock. Smith, a junior, was expected to be drafted near the top end of the first round — Matt Miller of Bleacher Report, for example, had Smith rated as his No. 2 overall player. Because he is an underclassmen (and hasn’t yet officially declared for the draft), the possibility remains that he could return to school. But facing a major injury and recovery time, I’d guess Smith will want to get on an NFL roster and begin collecting a paycheck.
The most recent example of a top collegiate prospect suffering a knee injury is, of course, Todd Gurley, who was drafted with the 10th overall pick after tearing his ACL. Again, we don’t even know if that’s the same injury suffered by Smith, and there are differences here (Gurley suffered his injury in mid-November, not January, and was considered a generational talent). But the Gurely comparison might give some indication as to how far Smith can expect his stock to fall.