Junior 6’3” 235
Smith is a true 3-down LB who makes plays sideline to sideline in both the run and pass.
- Good instincts
- Good footwork and keeps shoulders square to LOS
- Sure tackler and good open field tackler
- Plays downhill in run game
- Uses hands to take on blocks, gets excellent extension, and works over the top of the blocker
- Hard hitter
- Works through traffic well (avoid blocks or downed players to get to ball carrier)
- Sideline to sideline defender
- Always around the ball
- Exceptional athletic with ability for match up in man coverage on RBs out of the back field, TEs, and occasional slot WR
- Seems to have a conceptual understanding of zone coverages
- Allows minimal yards after contact and yards after catch
- Tends to overrun plays outside the OT
- Not a real effective pass blitzer/pass rusher
- Occasionally guesses on plays instead of reading keys
Jaylon Smith was a top linebacker recruit coming out of high school and has started every game since arriving in South Bend. Smith has led the Irish in tackles the past 2 seasons and received this year’s Butkus Award for the nation’s top linebacker. His most impressive attribute is how well he takes on blocks and works off/over the top to get in position to make the play. You typically don’t see many prospects, especially true juniors, who are as refined at shedding blocks as he is. You don’t see many NFL linebackers who are quite as skilled at shedding blocks as he is for that matter. He makes plays all over the field in the run game from Notre Dame’s base 2 linebacker set and is one of the best cover LB prospects in the draft. The ability to excel within a 2 linebacker set should be one of the highest sought after skills in the coming years as offenses continue to spread the field and increase the tempo of the game, which keeps defenses from using separate sub packages for run or pass situations. He will be an immediate starter and defensive rookie of the year candidate for any team that selects him in April.
Smith has shown some weaknesses in his effectiveness as a blitzer/pass rusher and maintaining leverage on outside runs. Blitzing and pass rushing are really more of a bonus when you’re looking at the type of off-ball linebacker prospect that Smith is, but based on his ability to get extension from blockers on impact, rushing should be something he can develop with coaching and reps. He will at times lose leverage on runners by overrunning plays. The only problem when evaluating leverage in pursuit is that we don’t know the defensive scheme and whether they coach their players to keep inside or outside leverage.
**Update post injury: Regardless of the injury, he’s still going to be picked in the first round. There are plenty of athletes that are able to make it back from knee injuries in under a year. Its not something that you should plan on, but even if he plays half of the season, its going to be worth it in the long run.
Games watched: USC 2015, Clemson 2015, Texas 2015, LSU 2014, Florida St 2014, Stanford 2014