Myles Jack has been regarded for months as one of the NFL Draft's best defensive prospects. He still is, but his position in the draft appears to be falling in the hours leading up to the event, stemming from concerns over Jack's right knee.
Jack was a sort of two-way star at UCLA, but he tore his right meniscus in practice last September, after the Bruins' third game of the season. He never played another college down, and his rehabilitation has been an ongoing process ever since. He didn't fully participate in the NFL Scouting Combine, but he'd still been a widely projected top-five pick -- until very recently. There's a concern that Jack's meniscus could face degenerative problems -- and get worse -- in the years to come.
On Wednesday night, in an article published less than 24 hours before the start of the draft, Jack made an uncomfortable admission to The New York Post's Bart Hubbuch: that his knee might yet require microfracture surgery, which could dent or even end his career.
Though Jack is expected to be available from Day 1 as a rookie, the knee now appears likely to require microfracture surgery -- potentially a career-ender -- in the next few years.
Jack admitted as much Wednesday, telling The Post the microfracture procedure is a possibility and that he would understand if that causes him to plummet in the first round.
"[The degenerative problems are] there, but it's nothing extreme," Jack said at an NFL event for prospects at Grant Park. "Down the line, possibly I could have microfracture surgery -- potentially. Who knows what will happen?
"Nobody knows how long anybody is going to play in this league. To play three years in this league would be above average."
This is an odd thing for a prospect to admit right before the draft, but there are a few good reasons Jack might have done it.
1. Jack is honest. This is a virtuous trait, and maybe Jack is just saying exactly what he feels. He's a hugely confident guy, but he's not pretending there's nothing wrong with his knee at all. He doesn't want to be disingenuous, even if it costs him a few draft slots and some dollars as a result.
2. Jack has a draft promise from some team and wants to go there. It's certainly possible that a team somewhere in the middle of the first round gave Jack a guarantee that it'd draft him if he, for whatever reason, fell far enough down the board. Maybe Jack has a good relationship with the coaching staff, or maybe he sees a great scheme fit or maybe he just really likes the city.
3. Jack is thinking years ahead. The NFL's new collective bargaining agreement makes first-round money smaller than it used to be, so Jack isn't necessarily sacrificing his financial future by trying to wiggle down a few picks. Jack reportedly has an insurance policy that might pay out if he falls, which could mitigate the short-term risk in moving down, anyway.
More than that, if Jack finds a better scheme fit and has a more productive first few years in the league, it could be a shrewd move when it comes time for a second contract. Increasingly, that's where players can make much bigger money than on their draft deals. For Jack, a linebacker who could be deployed either in coverage or as a pure pass rusher, finding the right system for his skill set is absolutely critical. It's possible he's just playing the long game.