NFL

NFL AM: Medical Recheck Clouds Myles Jack’s Status

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Under normal circumstances, UCLA linebacker Myles Jack, one of the most talented players in the 2016 NFL Draft, would be a shoe-in Top 5 selection. But the circumstances around Jack and his health are less than normal.

Last September, Jack suffered a torn meniscus during a UCLA practice session, which brought an early end to his junior season. Rather than even think about going back to school for his senior season, Jack withdrew from UCLA to focus on his rehab, making clear his intent to enter the draft. With his expected recovery timeline being about six months from the time of injury, and his commitment to healing, he shot toward the top of draft boards.

However, now seven months removed from the date of the injury, questions remain about the progress of his rehabilitation. After running the gamut of medical tests in February at the NFL Scouting Combine, Jack was issued a request for a medical re-check, something no prospect wants to see. That re-check came around this week and although Jack informed ESPN’s Stephania Bell that “no one had any issues,” it seems that may not exactly be true.

According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport the reviews of Jack’s medicals from team doctors across the league are mixed at best. While some team doctors were fine with the results, the physicians for other teams had their doubts due to the speed, or lack thereof, of the healing process for Jack. Add in the fact that teams have seen very little of what Jack can do since September — he was not cleared to participate in drills at the combine, doing only bench press reps, and did only broad and vertical jumps at UCLA pro day — and there are more questions than answers surrounding the linebacker as the draft approaches.

There’s no denying Jack’s athletic talent when he’s healthy. Anyone who has seen him play can attest to him being one of the most athletically gifted linebackers to hit the draft in several years. There are some holes in his game, but teams believe that with his athletic talent and motor they can teach the rest. That’s why the knee injury hasn’t stopped him from being a Top 5 pick. But knee injuries are also very tricky, especially ones like this where there wasn’t a complete tear because there is worry that the stress put on the rest of the knee by the initial meniscus tear could set other ligaments for failure down the road.

The question is, what teams will be willing to take on the risk, particularly in the Top 5? Right now it seems as though Jack could go as high as No. 3 overall to the San Diego Chargers. It was rumored in March that the Chargers had interest in moving him to safety, but after they signed Dwight Lowery, and with a more natural fit at that position in Jalen Ramsey likely to still be on the board, it doesn’t really make sense for them to do that. Dallas was also rumored to have interest in Jack at No. 4, but they already have one talented linebacker with consistent injury concerns in Sean Lee. The Jacksonville Jaguars at No. 5 also might shy away looking for a more sure thing after what they went through with Dante Fowler last season.

It’s doubtful we’ll see Jack plummet too far down draft boards. It’d be shocking to see him drop out of the Top 10 altogether. It only takes one team to fall in love with a player to get him off the board and there’s a lot to love about Myles Jack. There’s just too much talent there to ignore, and should his knee hold up, some team is going to get a stud.

SMITH’S RE-CHECK CONFIRMS 2016 RETURN UNLIKELY

It hasn’t been a great year for draft eligible linebackers and their knees. Jack is one example, but another Top 10 talent is an even more cautionary tale.

A medical re-check this week confirmed what has long been suspected: former Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith will miss the entirety of the 2016 season with a knee injury suffered during the Fiesta Bowl. Before suffering the injury, a healthy Smith was actually tabbed to go ahead of Jack in the draft, but one play changed the course of his career. The ugly injury included ACL and MCL tears, as well as some alarming nerve damage, which further clouded his prospects for the future.

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport indicated on Friday that Smith’s knee was in much the same condition during his re-check in Indianapolis week as it was when he first had it examined at the NFL Scouting Combine.

But as far as medicine has come as it relates to knee injuries, nerve damage is a game changer, and its put Smith’s return for 2017, and his ability to play successfully at the NFL level at all, in some doubt. The last such injury for a draft prospect was in 2012, when then University of South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore suffered an even more horrifying knee injury that included a dislocation and tearing of several ligaments. The injury dropped the talented running back from likely first round pick to fourth rounder in 2013, but he never played in the pros due to the lingering effects of the injury.

Smith injuries reportedly isn’t quite as severe as Lattimore’s was, but the case of the South Carolina running back is enough to put fear in some teams and take Smith off their board in total. Still the talented 20-year-old linebacker and 2015 Dick Butkus Award winner is optimistic about his return and says three months into the rehab process he’s starting to feel like himself again.

“I’m feeling normal again,” he told NFL Network recently. “The knee is doing great. The nerve is just a matter of everything coming back. But the rehab is going great. I’m squatting over 400 pounds, I’m leg pressing over 600 pounds. It’s just a matter of time. I’ll be fine…nerves heal on their own. From everything my doctor has said, I’ll be 100 percent, it’s just a matter of when.”

That is indeed the question on every interested team’s mind entering the draft. When will they have Jaylon Smith healthy and when is the right time to take him. It wouldn’t be a shock to here his name come off the board anywhere from the second to the seventh round. If a team believes in him and his recovery, they should jump early, because the longer his wait goes on, the more teams will be looking at him as a lottery ticket and by day three, someone is sure to take the risk.

 

 

 

 


About Devon Jeffreys

Devon Jeffreys