Dallas Cowboys: Javon Kinlaw could be this draft’s Jaylon Smith

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 27: Javon Kinlaw #DL14 of the South Carolina (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 27: Javon Kinlaw #DL14 of the South Carolina (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images) /

Not too long ago the Dallas Cowboys rolled the dice on a highly skilled player with career threatening injury concerns when they drafted Jaylon Smith, this year it could be Javon Kinlaw.

In 2016 the NFL world saw Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith free-fall in the draft. Widely considered a top-5 talent that year, Jaylon fell all the way to the second round before the Dallas Cowboys rolled the dice and selected the injured superstar.

This year we may see a similar free fall from a highly skilled defensive player. Reports are surfacing that teams are worried about Kinlaw’s knees as well as his hip. Knee issues stifled Kinlaw down the stretch last season and ultimately prevented him from resuming Senior Bowl week.

Injuries such as that are nothing new. Teams usually just deploy their trusted team doctors and apply the proper amount of risk. But in the days of social distancing, team medical checks are no longer possible, and predraft health concerns stay health concerns up to through the draft. Unable to rule out worse case scenarios, teams have no choice but to consider the worst. That alone is going to hurt Kinlaw and potentially drop him from the top-10.

We’ve seen it happen before. Maurice Hurst was diagnosed with a heart condition at the Combine in 2018. The expected first round pick dropped all the way to the fifth round. Dallas Cowboys fans experienced this personally in 2016 when they saw Jaylon Smith fall to them in the second round. Might Kinlaw see a similar free fall with so many questions floating around about his knee?

It’s certainly possible – Especially since now we’re hearing news teams aren’t just worried about the knees but also the hip. If Kinlaw can’t get ahead of this and teams think his best physical days are behind him, even someone as tremendously talented as him could fall deep into the draft-mos-phere.

Javon Kinlaw is a productive and supremely talented prospect. He tied with Justin Madubuike last season with 26 pressures from inside. That’s especially impressive considering he leveled off after Week 4 last year and his health noticeably impacted him late in the year.

Much like Jaylon Smith, Kinlaw has major boom or bust potential. He could be the best interior lineman in the class or he might never be healthy enough to even start. There’s a lot of questions and given the quarantine, there aren’t a lot of answers.

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Mock drafts have Javon Kinlaw going in the top-15 pretty consistently. But its been said mock drafts and the online draft community has never been more out of touch with a draft than they are this year. First round picks are like gold and teams can only handle so much risk. Players like Hurst and Jaylon offered tremendous returns but their injury risk was too scary for a lot of teams. In fact, some teams removed them from the draft board altogether.

Could Javon Kinlaw fall all the way to the second round. Based on the level of concern some of these teams have, you bet he could. How far depends on just one team. He could go in the top-half of the first round or he could slide into Day 2.

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The draft promises to offer a ton of surprises this year given the disconnect between the teams, media, and fans. But if something strange happens with Kinlaw, we shouldn’t be surprised.