Huard: Seahawks could take chance on ‘wild card’ LB Jaylon Smith

Apr 20, 2016, 11:20 AM | Updated: Apr 21, 2016, 10:38 am

Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith tore his ACL and LCL and could have long-term nerve damage. (AP)...

Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith tore his ACL and LCL and could have long-term nerve damage. (AP)


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He may be the most talented player in the upcoming NFL draft. He might also be unable to play in 2016, if ever again.

But if Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith is on the board in the middle of the draft, Brock Huard believes the Seahawks should pounce.

“You’re talking about a legitimate, bona fide, and one of the rarest talents in this entire draft – if he were healthy,” Huard said.

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It’s that health question that reportedly has some teams quite concerned. Smith, who won the Butkus Award as the nation’s best linebacker in 2015, suffered a torn ACL and LCL in his left knee during the Jan. 1 Fiesta Bowl. Before the injury, Smith was considered a potential top-five pick, but ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Monday that teams became concerned during the medical rechecks that Smith suffered nerve damage that might keep him off the field all of next season, and possibly forever.

Huard noted that there are concerns that Smith has “drop foot,” an ailment that derailed the career of Pro Bowl running back Robert Edwards.

“You’re just almost dragging that leg and foot because that nerve that controls that lower extremity doesn’t fire,” he said.

A recent tweet from Smith could help alleviate some of those concerns. He posted a video with the tag “God is taking care of that nerve!”

Huard said he’s seen the unpredictable issues with nerve damage in rehabs with neck injuries to former teammate Peyton Manning and his own father.

“You can ask anybody who has nerve damage: There is no timing,” he said. “Some guys and some of their bodies will heal in six months, some will heal in nine months, some will heal in a year, some never heal.”

The injury makes Smith a “true, legitimate wild card,” in Huard’s eyes, because of his incredibly high ceiling. The 6-foot-3, 223-pound linebacker led the Irish with 114 tackles last season, including nine for loss, and some evaluators believe he has the physical makeup to play any linebacker spot in the 3-4 or 4-3 scheme.

Huard said that if the Seahawks trade down and accumulate any more than the nine picks they currently hold, he would definitely approve of a fourth-round-or-lower flyer on Smith’s potential as a future Bruce Irvin replacement.

“Knowing the Seahawks and knowing their appetite for risk, and more importantly for ceiling and upside, I’d love it,” he said. “I’d applaud it, because he’s a rare, gifted talent.”

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