Jaylon Smith leaning toward applying for early NFL draft entry

Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith is leaning toward applying for early entry into the 2016 NFL Draft and has narrowed his options for an agent, according to NFL Media's Rand Getlin.

The Fighting Irish junior has been arguably the best linebacker in college football this season, and has drawn rave reviews on social media from NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah. Smith was announced on Tuesday as the Butkus Award winner over LSU's Deion Jones, Alabama's Reggie Ragland, Georgia's Leonard Floyd and Ohio State's Raekwon McMillan.

Smith led one of the nation's top teams in tackles by a wide margin with 113. Notre Dame's second-leading tackler, Joe Schmidt, has just 65. Among those 113 tackles were nine for losses with one sack, five pass breakups and two fumble recoveries. Though Smith (6-foot-2, 235 pounds) is a capable pass rusher from the outside, he's played inside extensively as well.

Underclassmen have until a Jan. 18 deadline to apply for early draft eligibility.

Follow Chase Goodbread on Twitter *@ChaseGoodbread*.

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