CHICAGO -- Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys with the 34th overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, a spot many felt was unattainable for Smith because of a major knee injury in the Jan. 1 Fiesta Bowl.
Two picks later, UCLA linebacker Myles Jack's long and agonizing wait ended when the Jacksonville Jaguars added to their offseason overhaul on defense by drafting Jack.
The Cowboys considered Smith a top-five player before his injury, but because of damage around the knee, most evaluators expect him to miss the 2016 season. However, the Cowboys had all the medical information needed on Smith -- their team doctor, Dan Cooper, performed the surgery.
Dallas has taken linebackers with knee injuries in the second round before -- Bruce Carter from North Carolina in 2011 and Sean Lee out of Penn State in 2010.
Friday's second round opened with two edge players being drafted -- Emmanuel Ogbah (Oklahoma State) to the Cleveland Browns and Clemson's Kevin Dodd to the Tennessee Titans -- before the Cowboys pulled Friday's first surprise.
Smith tore his anterior cruciate ligament and lateral collateral ligament against Ohio State, a dark cloud on a junior season in which he was named the Butkus Award winner.
Before the injury, NFLDraftScout.com projected Smith to be the first defensive player drafted. With medical intelligence splitting scouts and most erring on the conservative side, he was projected as a third-round pick. Some view his ceiling as comparable to that of Super Bowl 50 MVP Von Miller, an outside linebacker who has speed to rush the passer but can drop into coverage and impact plays on all three downs.
Smith is recovering after surgery and his return to football in 2016, or ever, remains in question. At issue is a six-inch long area of stretched nerve that takes a month per inch to heal, if it heals. He is approximately three months into rehab. He wears an ankle foot orthosis (AFO) device to combat drop-foot. He is working out diligently, but there are no guarantees.
Jack's rare speed and athleticism at linebacker are coveted, but he went from a projected top-five pick to undrafted in the first round because of his own knee concerns. Jack admitted Wednesday degeneration of his surgically repaired knee might ultimately lead to microfracture surgery. However, surgeon James Andrews told ESPN that is not currently a consideration.
In the first round Thursday, the Jaguars plucked cornerback Jalen Ramsey, a Florida State defensive back with Olympic-level athleticism. Jack can be dropped into a defense that also features free-agent signees in defensive lineman Malik Jackson and safety Tashaun Gipson.