Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith's medical recheck in Indianapolis didn't change the expectation that he will miss the entire 2016 NFL season.
Many NFL clubs, however, expect the 2015 Butkus Award winner to return for 2017, according to NFL Media insider Ian Rapoport. Although teams are still reviewing the results of Smith's recheck, several sources informed of the exam told Rapoport his knee was much the same as it was when examined at the NFL Scouting Combine in February.
Smith was expected to be a first-round draft choice until a gruesome knee injury in his final college game, against Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl, put his draft status in question. The injury included nerve damage, which is one of the primary concerns regarding the length of time it will take him to recover. Smith has said doctors have told him he will fully recover eventually, but without a more clear timetable, NFL clubs could be reticent to invest a high draft choice in him. Before the injury, he was considered a sure top-10 pick who some believed would have competed for the top draft slot.
"I know there are some teams very concerned about whether he'll be ready to go in 2017. Unfortunately, I think that's really going to hurt his stock," said NFL Media analyst Lance Zierlein. "On the other hand, if he fully recovers at any point, you've got one of the best players in the draft."
Former South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore was in a similar situation prior to the 2013 draft. He had dislocated his right knee in a game and tore several ligaments. There was also nerve damage. With NFL clubs well aware that his rookie season would likely be lost to rehabilitation, the San Francisco 49ers made him a fourth-round pick. It was a decision at the time that even Lattimore didn't understand.
"I mean, why would you take a running back with two horrible knee injuries? I did pretty good, I played good in college, but if I'm a GM I don't think I would do it," Lattimore told SBNation last summer.
With Smith, some GM will no doubt take the same chance. The question is, when?