Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly is not among those wondering if Jaylon Smith will be able to regain dominant form after he enters the NFL.
Kelly says he has no such concerns about his former star linebacker, who sustained a severe knee injury during the Fiesta Bowl in January that has placed his draft status in significant jeopardy.
"Jaylon will play in the NFL. It's just a matter of time. He's going to come back from this injury, and when he does, he's going to be one of the best linebackers in the NFL. He has that kind of ability," Kelly said on Wednesday, per FOX Sports.
One of the questions NFL coaches and personnel officials are pondering is how long it will take for Smith to get back on the field. NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported that, following Smith's NFL Scouting Combine medical recheck last week, NFL clubs continued to believe Smith won't be able to play until 2017 at the earliest.
That being the case, what was once expected to be first-round draft status has spiraled into a great deal of uncertainty for the 2015 Butkus Award winner. NFL Media draft expert Mike Mayock has said Smith, were it not for the injury, would have been deserving of consideration for the No. 1 overall pick.
"He's a smart business decision when you're thinking about Jaylon Smith because he's going to get back on the field just because of his ability to heal," Kelly said. "He's an incredible athlete and a positive guy. We're not in that mindset of disappointment or concern that he's not going to play again."
If Smith is chosen as a late-round pick and then fully recovers in time for the 2017 season, the team that takes a chance on him could have the biggest steal of the 2016 draft.