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Matt Miller: Saints Taking Interest in Notre Dame Linebacker Jaylon Smith

In a year that doesn't have a ton of standout linebackers (especially in comparison to 2015's class), the Saints have apparently shown interest in the #1 LB in the draft.

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

There has been a lot of buzz around the Saints' seemingly inseparable interest in edge rusher Noah Spence of Eastern Kentucky.  People have forgotten, however, that the Saints actually do have options at the 12th overall pick and have expressly stated they'll talk to EVERYONE at the Senior Bowl.

Per Bleacher Report's Matt Miller, one such player is Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith, who also happens to be the #1 linebacker in the draft.

One team to keep an eye on is the New Orleans Saints. I'm told there is a lot of like for him at weak-side linebacker on their board.

Smith plays at a Will in the 3-4, which means he plays on the weakside and could complement #31 overall 2015 pick Stephone Anthony, in addition to Hau'oli Kikaha, the Saints' second round pick who plays a jack (edge).  Both players struggled in coverage in 2015, showing a gaping hole in the Saints' pass defense in the middle of the field.

Smith, who stands tall at 6'3", 229 lbs has been compared to Kansas City Pro Bowler Derrick Johnson (and frankly, being compared to any KC linebacker is a high compliment).  Smith also hasn't been pigeon-holed as a WILB by scouts, who have stated that he has the speed, athleticism and size to be productive anywhere in a 3-4, while also saying that he may be more effective as an OLB in a 4-3.  Smith's strong coverage skills have been cited as one of his biggest draws to scouts, making him perfect for the New Orleans' defensive need.

In his 3 years at Notre Dame, Smith amassed 168 solo tackles, 284 total tackles, 23.5 TFL, 4.5 sacks and 3 fumbles forced AND recovered.  Smith's weaknesses are apparent in his style.  He plays fairly passively, struggling in pursuit at times (more or less the opposite problem that Anthony has).  There is, however, the elephant in the room and the real reason that he's not listed as a Top 10 (let alone Top 5) prospect: He suffered an ACL/MCL tear that has jeopardized his rookie NFL season, although he himself has stated he'll be ready by week one of 2016.  After the Saints were forced to IR two rookies last year and the Jaguars IRed their first round edge rusher, Dante Fowler Jr, in 2015, the risk in drafting a player that is known to be coming in with a serious injury is great.

See the poll below, what do you think the Saints should do?  Should they go with the character concerns of Noah Spence, the injury concerns of Jaylon Smith, or go a different direction entirely?