If Mel Kiper’s latest mock draft on ESPN holds true, many Bears fans won’t need much of an introduction to the team’s first-round pick in April’s draft.
Kiper has Chicago using the No. 11 pick on Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith – the 2015 Butkus Award winner.
At the end of the regular season, Smith was considered a consensus top-five pick, but a knee injury suffered during the Irish’s Fiesta Bowl loss Jan. 1 is expected to cost Smith part – if not all – of his rookie season.
If Jaylon Smith’s Notre Dame career hadn’t ended with him being carted off the field in the Fiesta Bowl, you’re looking at a player who wouldn’t be available here. If it’s just about the tape, this is one of the top three or four players in the entire draft, a gifted sideline-to-sideline defender who can cover. The potential reward at a position of need makes him a great addition here.
The question is whether or not Chicago is ready to use another first-round pick on a player that won’t be ready for Week 1.
Bears 2015 first-round receiver Kevin White missed the entire 2015 season after a stress fracture in his ankle required surgery last summer.
One ex-AFC coach told NFL.com that Smith reminds him of Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson, a four-time Pro Bowler.
“Same frame, same speed and same playmaking ability,” the coach said. “Both of those guys are made for the pro game.”
The latest mock from CBS has the Bears selecting former Ohio State defensive end Noah Spence.