The Dallas Cowboys are prepared to play the waiting game on Jaylon Smith, the vastly talented linebacker who fell to Dallas at No. 34 overall after he shredded his right knee in his final collegiate game.
According to ESPN, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said his team is “ready to take the pain for the gain on Smith because the upside is so big.”
The Butkus Award winner in 2015, Smith was likely to be a top-5 pick in the 2016 draft before tearing his ACL, MCL and suffering nerve damage in his left knee during Notre Dame’s loss to Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl in January.
The Cowboys are rolling the dice on Smith’s knee healing and his nerves regenerating, mostly because the tape on him when healthy is so overwhelmingly good.
“He jumps off when you watch him,” Jones said. “I don’t care who you are evaluating at Notre Dame, he just jumps off the tape. He is a very impactful player. There is no reason to think that he can’t do it at the pro level. The other thing is that the nature of the question mark here is not uncommon. So, you have every reason to think it can have a positive conclusion and he can continue with a long career relative to this injury, as opposed to a possible limited career.”
Smith isn’t expected to play in 2016. He’s currently dealing with a drop-foot issue, which is a difficulty in lifting the foot because of nerve damage in the knee area. The regeneration process in the nerves comes with many unknowns.
The former Notre Dame linebacker insists he’ll play football again.
“I’m going to be fine,” Smith said. “I’ll be able to play again. It’s just timing. Timing is everything and for Dallas to draft me, they’re going to get a great player. I’m looking forward to playing for a great team.”
The Cowboys are banking on his successful return. The pain comes now, in 2016, while the team plays the waiting game on Smith’s knee. If it recovers, the gain in the equation—Dallas adding a potential All-Pro linebacker—could be enormous.