The NFL scouting combine kicks off this week, and scouts for the Chicago Bears will be in attendance. With so many different needs on both sides of the football, it is imperative that the Bears have a strong draft. Rival NFL scouts are going to be around as well, as they will all try to outsmart each other by doing as much research as they can this week.
Also attending the NFL scouting combine will be most of the top draft prospects. They will be on hand to perform drills and conduct interviews. One of the top prospects who will not participate in the drills is one of the players who keeps getting linked to the Chicago Bears, he is Notre Dame Fighting Irish’s linebacker Jaylon Smith.
At 6’2″, 240 pounds, Smith was well on his way to becoming one of the top players picked in the upcoming draft, perhaps even the top pick depending on the team who had the number one selection. His combination of speed and power can only be rivaled by his ability to seek out an opposing team’s ball-carrier. Smith led the Fighting Irish defense to a 10-2 season heading into a bowl game.
It was the Fiesta Bowl on January 1st against the Ohio State Buckeyes where Jaylon Smith tore his ACL and LCL. His draft options took a huge hit at first, though a source close to Smith told Sports Illustrated that he will make a full recovery.
“What we do know is there’s going to be a full recovery. The repair is solid, and he’s very optimistic. We’re optimistic. And Jaylon is ready to get going with his rehab.”
Several teams will be monitoring Jaylon Smith’s rehab, including the Chicago Bears. According to the typical timeframe for torn ACL recovery, Smith will not be able to fully work out until late July or early August at the soonest. Any team who takes the chance to draft must be patient with him as he recovers. While most teams in drafting with one of the top-10 may not take a chance, could their loss become a gain for the Chicago Bears?
NFL draft guru and ESPN analyst Mel Kiper believe that it would make sense for the Bears to take Jaylon Smith with the 11th pick. He quickly cites the Bears’ stability as the reason why it would work.
“They have a coach that isn’t going anywhere. That’s what I tried to go with for Jaylon Smith. You are not going to take him if you have to win this year, or else you are gone, or you are in trouble. So you have to get a secure head coach, which John Fox is. You’re coming off a year with Kevin White back, and that’s an injury [stress fracture in left shin] you didn’t know was going to happen. Now you know Jaylon Smith had the injury. So you say why would you take him?”
Whoever selects Jaylon Smith will get a difference-maker the moment that he is fully healthy. If he could replicate some of the things that Super Bowl 50 MVP Von Miller has done so far, Smith would be a steal where the Chicago Bears are choosing. Coming close to Miller’s production at any point is a lofty goal, but imagining the possibilities, it is tough not to target him.
“From what I know, and what I hear, and what’s realistic… you almost have to figure this is a redshirt year. To get anything out of Jaylon Smith this year would be a surprise. But this is a kid, unlike Cedric Ogbuchi last year, or even Todd Gurley — you can make an argument that Jaylon Smith is the best player in this draft.”
Everything about Smith sounds good as far as potential production is concerned. The question facing the Chicago Bears is if they can afford to draft another rookie who is facing a year of learning on the sidelines?
Chicago Bears’ coach John Fox is not going anywhere, anytime soon since the Bears are in the process of building a winning foundation. Much like getting an immediate impact from Jaylon Smith, if the Bears made the playoffs, it would come as a surprise. Coach Fox will be entering Year 2 of his reign. Year 3 is when he truly sees the Bears making some definite noise. Jaylon Smith can be worked in seamlessly.
There is a fear that if the Chicago Bears were to draft Smith, his selection could backfire. The truth is that the NFL Draft is one big gamble anyway. Players become boom or bust every season regardless of where they are drafting.
Do the Chicago Bears have Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith on their radar? Just like every other team, they absolutely do. With most of the teams ahead of them going to be addressing immediate needs, it is possible the Bears will have the first crack at him. His interview at this week’s scouting combine will go a long way.
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