NFL Draft 2016Quote Of The Week

Quote of the Week: Gambling on Jaylon Smith

The War Room is a lot like the Roulette table at a casino. Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman has all of the power to place his chips where he pleases, but he’s not guaranteed to hit on any of those black and red numbers. If chips are draft picks and the table numbers are prospects, then Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith is the riskiest bet Spielman can make in the 2016 NFL Draft.

Widely considered the draft’s safest prospect during the 2015 college football season, Smith was a near-lock to come off the board within the first five picks of the first round. But a terrifying knee injury ended both his junior season and collegiate career with the Fighting Irish. Smith disappeared from the national spotlight to rehabilitate his knee, making a brief appearance on social media before this year’s Scouting Combine.

The video sent Smith’s draft stock plummeting, with some fearing the nerve damage in his knee and ankle was enough to keep Smith off the field until 2017. At the time, the situation appeared dire for the star linebacker, but Smith is slowly creeping his way back into the first-round conversation. According to Charlie Campbell at Walter Football, a handful of teams are willing to take a chance on Smith, with the hopes that he’ll make a full recovery by the middle of 2016:

[quote_box_center]Two playoff teams say that Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith is in play for their first-round pick if his medical recheck goes well. If they feel that Smith’s going to miss limited time and not suffer long-term effects of his knee injury, Smith will get heavy consideration on Thursday night. They feel that they would land a top-five talent at a massive discount and they have the strong roster to stash him for half a season, or his entire rookie year, with the payoff coming in 2017 of a player they shouldn’t have been able to land. Keep an eye on the Chiefs, Packers, Texans, Bengals, and Vikings.[/quote_box_center]

Campbell lists the Vikings as one of the potential risk-taking teams, and it’s a scenario that isn’t totally out of the question. My first mock draft had Rick Spielman selecting Smith with the 23rd-overall selection, and that was before the knee injury on New Year’s Day. Today, Smith is working his way back to full strength, and the possibility remains that he could suit up at some point in 2016. While it’s unlikely, the Vikings are one of the more progressive franchises in the league when it comes to drafting high-risk/high-reward medical fliers. Although they’ve only made such moves at the end of drafts, Smith is on another level, both talent and fit-wise.

With Chad Greenway set to return for a final season and Emmanuel Lamur waiting in the wings, there isn’t much room at the position for Smith. But right now, with a long recovery ahead, there’s no rush for Smith to step in right away. Drafting and stashing Smith would give the Vikings a top prospect, regardless of the year or competition at the position. He’s a player who would be ranked highly in any of the past few drafts because he’s just that talented. And, the Vikings are in a place where they don’t have to draft for current needs — they can plan for the future by drafting a player who will contribute in a year or two.

Smith’s college production and NFL potential would’ve made him a top-10 pick had he not injured his knee. It’s that same production and potential, regardless of his questionable health, that makes him such a polarizing prospect in this draft class. Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer covets athletic defenders, and Smith fits the bill. If the team doesn’t love a wide receiver at No. 23 and Smith is still available, I wouldn’t be shocked to see Spielman put all of his first round chips on the table for the Notre Dame star.


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Austin Belisle

Austin Belisle is the West Coast's biggest Vikings fan, a football diehard cheering on the purple and yellow from sunny California. After graduating from San Jose State University in 2014, he began working full-time in corporate marketing and blogging on various sports websites. Austin's passion for the Vikings led him to Vikings Territory, where he hopes to share his lifelong enthusiasm for the team with readers on a daily basis. You can follow him on Twitter @austincbelisle

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  1. For perspective, because I think the Vikings should take Doctson (if available), if the Vikings had to use the 23rd pick between Jaylon Smith or Will Fuller (as the most recent VT draft profile discusses), I’d take Smith in a heartbeat. An interesting dilemna.

    1. I am with you Andrew. Fuller worries me, speed and numerous drops. I can’t help but think of Troy Williamson. Speed at WR is not a need for the Vikes, they have plenty with what they have. If they must take a WR I am hoping that it will be a bigger body and hands type guy. If that option is not there in the first D. Lee and Smith would both be good choices.

  2. Is he worth a gamble…Depends on the rounds..It also depends on how a team views its next 2 years…For example…2 years ago…You could argue it made good sense to try to snag him in round 2 if they felt the knee would recover…However…..The Vikes might feel as if they have a 2-3 year window to win the Super Bowl. Why?
    1. Last year of AP (probably…combo of next years salary and age mean he will not be around in 2017)
    2. Teddy`s salary still manageable…At some point (assuming he pans out like most of us think) he will be getting around 20-22mm a year (I have no wish to argue if you think the number is 25mm or matter what..he gets expensive vs present salary)
    Not saying we could not win in 4 years…Just saying the next few years we have a good chance. But that also means high level picks do need to produce quickly and he might just take too long (if he ever does produce)

    1. Honestly if he can play this year then absolutely take him! If Doctson is gone by then it’s a no brainier. Sit back and wait for Rashad Higgins in round 2. He’s a really talented player and even though LB isn’t a need now it surely will be next year with Greenway gone.

    1. While I most definitely agree with you Wyatt, I get many dislikes when I express my lack of faith in this year’s WR draft class. If they do go WR in the first round, I most definitely think the only one worth the 1st round pick is Treadwell, and he might be a stretch also. Why chance it when there are so many good defensive tackles and it could be that the number 2 and/or 3 rated offensive tackles could be available? Not too mention Lee. All articles that I have read have teams too worried about Smith’s knee injury to take him in the first, he just might be available for MN in the 2nd, maybe even the third. And they do have wait time at LB.

    2. See what I mean Wyatt? We get dislikes for just mentioning that Doctson may not be the best pick in the first!! He is not that big, not that fast, is ok at positioning and using his body and hands to screen out and outreach defenders. But there is not one scouting report that doesn’t list his lack of variation in routes and being timid when targeted over the middle. Yet many are sold on him as a sure fire 1st round pick for MN. If they take him I sincerely hope that we are wrong. But I get pretty happy when thinking of their defense getting even better with taking d line, and/or LB, and/or safety in the first two rounds.

      1. luvvikings,don’t try and work out why people “dislike” your comment.
        For the record,I disliked Wyatt’s comment because taking Jaylon at 23 is a complete waste of a pick.The Vikings are in “win now” mode and need to be bringing in quality guys who can compete right away,not spending a first rounder on a guy who may never play.
        Spielman needs to nail the first 3 picks of this draft with guys that give us something in 2016.

  3. i’d be fine with it but the knee has to be 90% sure that it will be fine, but just might take until middle of the year to be close to normal. if there is much doubt that he could be another Marcus Lattimore, then i would say “no, thanks”. To me that would mean that even 5-10 teams have taken him completely off their trade board because how could arguably the top 5-10 out of 32 leading orthopaedics be wrong ?

  4. Way back in 1974, Matt Blair fell to the end of the second round because he had suffered a terrible (knee?) injury in college. Six Pro Bowls later, I think we can all agree that taking that chance worked out very, very well for us.

    I’m not sure that I could pass up Doctson for Smith, but if Doctson is gone, I’d take a shot at him. Or, knowing Speilman, he’d draft Doctson and then trade back into the end of the first round or top of the second to grab Smith. I’ve been obsessing over the idea of trading up to get Myles Jack but taking a flier on Smith is a very intriguing alternative, especially if we can combine him with Doctson or Thomas (no thank you to Treadwell or Fuller).

    1. Ck, I would just love to see Jack in the middle of the d with Kendricks and Barr. But it would take a king’s ransom to move up into the first five or so picks to get him. Slick rick would have to pull a Ditka and give up their entire draft class to get him. (almost) So many good d linemen, I am thinking they still need a safety too (round 2?). It was stated earlier that the Vikes told Billings that if he was still available at 23 they would take him. Maybe it was a bluff, but it was not a public statement it was a personal statement, more likely for them to be sincere when telling a prospect directly. If Smith falls all they way to the third round.. How could they pass? I think that the nerve damage reported might just have teams nervous, he might just fall all they way to the third round, very likely the second.

      1. I tend to doubt that they’ll draft a safety with Harris and Exum around to be coached up, especially with Griffin and Sendejo on the payroll. I’m particularly hopeful that Harris could start this year if he can get his weight up to 200 lbs. Picking a nose tackle to throw into the mix behind Joseph makes sense, but with the depth at that position in the draft, one should be available after the third round. I don’t see the need to draft any more bodies on either line – well, unless we can find a replacement for Kalil, of course – and competition for CB, RB and TE depth can all be addressed on Day 3. Wide receiver is, of course, the 800-pound gorilla in the room.

        Is Zimmer blowing smoke up our collective butts with his comments about not needing to bring in any new wideouts, or is the reported interest in Doctson the real thing? Personally, I’d be happy if Speilman signed Kamar Aiken away from the Ravens even at the cost of next year’s second round pick. That would allow him to play with all three of our top picks in this year’s draft, including sending a mix of picks and players to the Browns for Joe Thomas, or taking a gamble on Smith, or trading up for Jack who, by the way, I still think makes more sense on the weak side than in the middle of a 4-3 defense.

        But hey, things should finally start becoming clear in a week.

        1. All good points CK. Coincidentally, I had mentioned the notion of trading for Thomas on a previous thread. One thing though… Did you also find it surprising that they signed Sendejo to such a lucrative contract considering his struggles? Back and forth between him and Blanton for the starting role. I am just not very supportive of him I guess. I don’t know, but I can’t help but wondering if the safety from the Titans was just a hopeful stop gap just in case they are not in a position to draft a safety that they like, he was highly regarded at one time but was playing for a really bad defense. Whether they cut him due to play or wiping the slate clean.. I don’t know. There are 3 or 4 really good safeties in this year’ draft. i would not be upset if they draft Killebrew. If the nerve damage to Smith’s knee was exaggerated and he drops to the second he could be incredible value.

          1. Like pretty much everyone else, I think the team overpaid for Sendejo, whether the guaranteed portion of the contract is $2.5 million (Ben Goessling, ESPN) or $6.9 million (spotrac). True, Zimmer had clearly lost confidence in Blanton, while Sendejo is a decent back-up, fine special teamer and, I assume, a veritable éminence grise in the locker room, but he’s being paid almost twice what Marcus Sherels is this season and I don’t think he is worth nearly twice as much to the club.

            I’ve said elsewhere that I was surprised that Speilman signed Griffin instead of Reggie Nelson, who has been a much better player for the last several seasons, but after the deal Nelson got from the Raiders was signed, I’d say we only wanted to sign someone for one year instead of two and balked at matching Nelson’s price. To me, that’s a sign that Zimmer, Edwards and Gray are satisfied with the current long-term options at safety, i.e., Harris or Exum to start after this year with Sendejo as experienced insurance. If they don’t see the necessary improvement from either one of the two youngsters this year, they can invest in either a long-term free agent or a draft pick in 2017, with Sendejo maybe starting in the latter case.

            I fear that Myles Jack is a lost cause – Damn the Rams for overpaying the Titans for the #1 overall pick! – but Thomas might still be available at only a slightly inflated price.

            1. Not that it means it didn’t happen, but I heard nothing of MN making an offer to Nelson. Did not MN sign Griffin prior to the Raiders signing Nelson? I don’t think that they made a play for either Iloka or Nelson. I was very bummed about the former and assumed it was over money, very surprised about the latter.

              1. Yeah, Griffin was signed weeks before Nelson. In fact, given how long it took Nelson to get a contract, I imagine a lot of teams didn’t want to sign him for two years and $8 million. Honestly, I’m glad he got a deal that I think he deserved.

                From what I’ve read, Iloka is exactly the kind of young, quality, home-grown player that Cincinnati tries to lock up for the long haul, so I never thought we’d have much of a shot at him. Actually, the fact that we made no play for either Bengals safety gives me confidence that the coaches have confidence in their ability to coach Harris or Exum up to speed.

            2. Harris did play well at times once he got onto the field later in the year. It could be that they feel comfortable with Harris, Sendejo’s inexplicable contract would suggest the same. But he did have many chances to prove himself and he just did not in my opinion. Was a helluva hit he put down on Rhodes though to knock him out of action. Sums up his play for me, most memorable play was his missing a tackle and taking out his own team mate.

              1. Zimmer is a well known critic of Pro Football Focus, which emphasizes the results of a play independent of a player’s assignment. In other words, if PFF’s analysts see a player make a tackle for a loss, I believe that they don’t care if the player was out of position when he did it. Coaches, on the other hand, do care whether a player is “assignment-sound,” and I gather that his not being so was Zimmer’s main problem with Blanton. My guess, therefore, is that Sendejo was more assignment-sound than Blanton, even if it didn’t show up on the field that much. I emphasize, however, that I’m just guessing, here.