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Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith could miss the entire 2016 season

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Jaylon Smith is projected to be back on the field in 2017.

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Just a few short weeks ago, Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith was touting his impressive leg strength and recovery from a torn ACL and MCL that he suffered during the Fiesta Bowl. Now, Ian Rapoport is reporting that Smith is expected to miss the entire 2016 season and won't see NFL playing time before 2017.

The news coincides with a medical evaluation late in the week. Smith was supposed to be an early first-round pick before he shredded his knee in Notre Dame's bowl game against Ohio State on January 1. Such injuries require a lengthy recovery and rehabilitation period. Last year, Todd Gurley suffered a torn ACL in a November college game. He was still drafted in the first round by the Los Angeles Rams, but was not ready to play until Week 3 of the regular season. Smith's injury happened later than Gurley's and it was more serious, potentially involving nerve damage.

The news is surely devastating for the talented athlete who was praised for his explosiveness, intelligence, and speed. Former Pittsburgh Steelers ILB Sean Spence, who now plays for the Tennessee Titans, can relate to Smith's fate. He was drafted in the third round of the 2012 draft and ended up injuring his knee so seriously in the preseason that he could not play during the 2012 season. He was also sidelined with injuries during the 2013 season. Despite the disappointing start to his NFL career, Spence ended up being a strong contributor in 2014 and 2015.

Smith is talented enough to be drafted despite his injury, and could be a tremendous value for a team who does not need an immediate impact player.