San Francisco 49ers: High-Risk, High-Reward Prospects in 2016 NFL Draft
By Jerod Brown
Jaylon Smith-Inside Linebacker-Notre Dame
Jaylon Smith is still waiting to have his knee re-evaluated after suffering an injury in Notre Dame’s bowl game. The lasting-effects of that injury are still unclear and there are reports that lead in every direction. Originally, some expected he might be ready for 2016. Then it was he might be ready in 2017. Some have even suggested he may never play again.
Until the results of his medical re-check are announced in concrete, we’ll safely assume that he is an excellent player that, unfortunately, suffered an injury that puts his immediate future in some doubt.
If Smith were completely healthy, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. He would be a consensus top-10 pick and I’d pray he lasts until the 49ers choose at number seven. However, that’s not the reality. As of now, it is more likely that he will require some time, possibly even an entire season, before he is ready to play again.
The 49ers have shown a willingness to take on players that are essentially “red-shirting” their first season due to injury. The team brings the guys in and places them on injury lists that allows the team to monitor their recovery in hopes that they become the players they expected prior to injury.
In short, these picks haven’t been panning out. To introduce another player that may need a redshirt year would be incredibly risky. Not necessarily for the team, but for general manager Trent Baalke.
Many people believe that Baalke is on the hot-seat during this rebuild for the franchise. If he is able to make solid draft picks and demonstrate that the rebuild plan is working, perhaps he has an opportunity to stick around. But if things start to falter, there are only so many times that the Yorks can blame others for the ineffectiveness of the 49ers. They surely won’t place the blame on themselves.
If, however, Jaylon Smith is able to recover and play anywhere close to what might have been the expectations, a team will be getting one hell of a player.
That’s a serious endorsement. Even considering he is coming off an injury that put a screeching halt in his draft rise. Smith, when healthy, offers everything you might want from an inside linebacker. He is aggressive in the run game. He is a willing and able cover linebacker. He even began working on his pass-rushing abilities.
Smith tops this list of high-risk, high-reward players for the 49ers to consider. He could be the next stud linebacker to wear the 49ers’ colors. The team certainly has a need for a player of his caliber. Baalke will have to decide if he can manage the waiting game.
Next: Wrapping Up