The NFL Draft is all about risk and reward. Teams selecting early in the first round often pin their franchise’s future to one player, whether that’s a highly-rated quarterback or can’t-miss offensive tackle. The risk isn’t always worth the reward, but prospects like Andrew Luck make the gamble a worthwhile endeavor.
But when the gamble involves injuries, the pitfalls can be disastrous. The San Francisco 49ers took a flier on Marcus Lattimore in the fourth round of the 2013 NFL Draft, and the running back was never able to recover from a gruesome knee injury suffered at South Carolina. He never played a down with the 49ers, retired before the 2015 regular season, and disappeared into obscurity. And this year, another top prospect — Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith — may face a similar fate.
According to reports from Ian Rapoport, Smith’s medical exam revealed “ankle and knee nerve issues” that potentially put his 2016 season in jeopardy. At the Fiesta Bowl in January, Smith landed awkwardly and tore the ACL and LCL in his left knee. Though he underwent successful surgery seven weeks ago, Smith’s knee may be more damaged than originally thought; damage severe enough to send his draft stock plummeting in April.