Notre Dame's Jaylon Smith, arguably the best linebacker in college football, suffered an ACL and MCL tear in his left knee last week in the Fiesta Bowl against Ohio State.
NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported Wednesday that there is a fear Smith could also have nerve damage in the knee. Fighting Irish coach Brian Kelly described the left knee injury as "significant" in the wake of a 44-28 loss to the Buckeyes. ESPN reported Smith will undergo knee surgery on Thursday.
Smith has yet to announce whether he will apply for early eligibility into the 2016 NFL Draft, and it is unclear whether his injury will affect that decision. NFL Media's Rand Getlin reported last month, about three weeks before the injury, that Smith was leaning toward applying for early draft entry and was narrowing his options for an agent. Underclassmen have until a Jan. 18 deadline to apply for early draft eligibility. If Smith does enter the draft early, reconstructive knee surgery would prevent him from full participation in the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine, which is about seven weeks away.
Smith has a $5 million loss-of-value insurance policy against injury, and can make a collection claim on the policy if he is not chosen in the first round of the draft, according to ESPN's Darren Rovell.
Smith, a junior, won the Butkus Award as the nation's top linebacker in 2015. He made 113 tackles in the regular season for the Fighting Irish, including nine for losses. He was injured in the first half against Ohio State when he stepped awkwardly following a block by Buckeyes offensive tackle Taylor Decker.