Photo of Jaylon Smith
Drafted By: Cowboys
  • Round 2
  • Pick 3
  • Overall 34

Combine Results

5.4 ?

Draft Analysis:

"It takes a decision maker with conviction to make a selection like this. It starts with Jerry Jones; people who think outside the box and pull the trigger on these type of investments. I thought he could be Luke Kuechly at the next level. Smith is three downs all day long. Make no mistake, he will not play in 2016. This is all about a nerve regenerating and nobody knows if and to what extent." -- Mike Mayock

  • 6'2" Height
  • 33" Arm Length
  • 223LBS. Weight
  • 9 1/2" Hands


Heading into the Fiesta Bowl, Smith was considered one of the best defenders in the country and a sure-fire elite prospect in the 2016 NFL Draft. He tore the ACL and MCL in his left knee during the team’s loss to Ohio State, however, placing some doubt on whether he would apply for early entry. The 2015 consensus All-American decided he had done enough in his college career, however, deciding to put his name in the hat despite the intense rehabilitation ahead of him. Smith became the second player to win both the high school and college Butkus Awards as the nation’s top linebacker, joining former Notre Dame star Manti Te'o, by leading the Irish with 113 tackles, nine of which went for losses. It was the second straight season Smith topped the defensive stats chart in tackles (112) and made nine TFLs. In his first year on campus, Smith started all 13 games, making 67 stops, 6.5 for loss. It is expected that Smith will bounce back from his knee surgery to become the athletic, explosive defender that wowed scouts over the past three years.



Angular, sinewy build with a body fat number you could count on one hand. Checks every size, weight, speed and athleticism box there is. Can sink hips and change direction with suddenness in space. Has length and quickness for extended playmaking radius. Racked up 225 tackles over his last two seasons as a starter. Lightning quick lateral scrapes from gap to gap following track of the ball. Able to transition from scrape to spring seamlessly. Has a turbo boost to race running backs to the corner. Tries to meet oncoming blocks with physical punch and desired arm extension to stay clean. Adequate speed to diagnose and respond. Play speed is elite for the position. Very talented in man coverage. Asked to take on challenging man coverage responsibilities and responded. Has tools to become an excellent blitzer.


Tackles for loss production doesn't match up with his traits. Too passive in his approach preferring to wait on plays rather than racing downhill to own them. Not strong enough at point of attack to maintain balance and positioning when blockers get into his frame. Understands angles to the ball, but still learning shortcuts through the gaps. Flies after the ball with reckless abandon failing to come to balance as a tackler. Has habit of lunging into arm tackles rather than using feet to work into better tackling position. Missed 11 tackles this year. Tore ACL and MCL in his bowl game and his rookie season is in doubt.

Draft Projection

Rounds 5 or 6

Sources Tell Us

"He reminds me so much of DJ (Derrick Johnson) when he came out. Same frame, same speed and same playmaking ability. Both of those guys are made for the pro game." --­ Former AFC defensive coach

NFL Comparison

Derrick Johnson

Bottom Line

In this day and age of "tweeners" being labeled "hybrid" players, Smith is the rare commodity who is truly hybrid in the sense that he has the athleticism, speed and physical makeup to play any linebacker spot in either the 3­-4 or the 4-­3. Smith was productive but slightly miscast in the middle of the Notre Dame defense and is better suited to play in space as a 4­-3 outside linebacker. However, his length and upfield burst could draw the attention of a 3-­4 team looking to transition him into a rush linebacker while utilizing his rare cover skills. News regarding Smith's injury and potential issues surrounding recovery have created doubt regarding his draft stock and his final landing spot will be determined by a team's medicals. Without the injury issues, he's one of the top player's in this draft.
-Lance Zierlein
Grade Title
9.00-10 Once-in-lifetime player
8.00-9.00 Perennial All-Pro
7.50-7.99 Future All-Pro
7.00-7.49 Pro Bowl to All-Pro Ability
6.50-6.99 Good NFL Starter with Pro Bowl Potential
6.00-6.49 Chance to become good NFL starter
5.70-5.99 Could become early NFL starter
5.30-5.69 Backup or eventual starter
5.15-5.29 Developmental prospect or special teams potential
5.01-5.14 Back end of the roster
5.00 50/50 Chance of making the roster