As the draft gets closer and closer, I will write articles on potential prospects that the Jets may select. To start it off, we'll take a look at former Notre Dame OLB Jaylon Smith. The Butkus Award winner tore his ACL and LCL during the Fiesta Bowl against Ohio State and will continue his rehab throughout the offseason/preseason.
What is the injury?
The Anterior Cruciate Ligament and Lateral Collateral Ligament are major ligaments in the knee that aids in stabilization of the joint during movement. The ACL prevents the tibia (aka shin bone) from moving too far forward while the LCL acts to prevent the knee from bowing outward.
A LCL tear is fairly uncommon and is often a direct result of abnormal force causing the leg to bow out. A full tear is a sign of major instability in the knee which likely resulted in the ACL tear as well in this instance. Surgery is required rather quickly after the diagnosis for good results from the procedure and consequential rehabilitation.
In Smith's case, the injury was a noncontact injury and unfortunately landed very awkwardly as he tried to regain his balance after being pushed by an Ohio State player.
What impact does this injury have on his draft status?
His road to recovery is very similar to the first ACL article I wrote about with regards to Stevan Ridley's injury. However in this case, the timeline will likely be on the longer side of the 9-12 months given that both ligaments was surgically repaired opposed to solely the ACL. In addition, there has been much speculation if there was nerve damage from the injury or surgery that may prolong his recovery.
As tweeted by Dr. David Chao, former head physician of the San Diego Chargers, there is evidence of peroneal nerve damage given that Smith was wearing an AFO (ankle foot orthosis) in a video Smith tweeted about his recovery. An AFO is a brace that covers the foot and ankle that extends to underneath the knee. It is unknown the extent of damage to the nerve so it is quite impossible to predict how much of a setback this is for Smith but Chao did state that he will likely need a "red shirt year" to come back from surgery and nerve damage.
The peroneal nerve runs through the outside of the leg before splitting into two smaller nerves at the shin. Nerves in general serve two function: provide sensation to specific areas of the body and activate certain muscles to perform tasks. With regards to muscle innervation, "foot drop" is a result from peroneal nerve damage meaning that the person is unable to lift their toes and/or foot as they walk thus dragging their foot behind them. For this reason, a person would wear an AFO to support the structures of the ankle and foot to enhance their ability to walk, climb stairs, etc. as the nerve regenerates.
With all that said, Smith was a clear cut top 10 (maybe top 5) draft pick who is now slowly creeping down the board with news of the nerve injury. The draft is all about risk/reward ratios and opportunity costs: does the risk and potential reward of selecting one player justify the potential losses of picking another player? Teams will need to think long and hard if Smith is worthy of a first round pick when it is possible that he will miss a good chunk, if not all, of the upcoming season. John B. tackled this scenario a few days ago in his post and it is a topic definitely worthy of a discussion.
Jaylon Smith's draft status is very much in the air and it really depends on whether teams can afford to have their first round draft pick to not produce in their rookie year. Nevertheless, he has the potential to be a very good player if he can successfully and fully recovery from the injury.