Dallas Cowboys take on North Crowley’s Tyler Smith in NFL Draft

Dallas Cowboys talked about being aggressive, going against the grain and taking risks in the NFL Draft.

But as the first round unfolded with as much volatility and unpredictability as expected in the form of eight trades Thursday night, the Cowboys stood their ground. took Tulsa tackle Tyler Smith with the 24th overall pick.

It turned out to be a dream come true and the culmination of a meteoric rise for Smith, who grew up in Fort Worth and played her high school prom at North Crowley High School.

“It’s indescribable to be able to come home and play for Team USA,” Smith said. “It’s a dream come true. I grew up watching this team.

Coincidentally, Smith’s family rented an Airbnb down the street from the Cowboys headquarters in Frisco for their draft watch party. And from the way things went, he probably could have attended the team reunion at The Star. Okay, maybe not, but he said he was shocked to be picked by his hometown team.

Smith had minimal dialogue with the Cowboys during the pre-draft process. He didn’t come to Dallas-day, practice for the local North Texas area, although a Cowboys scout conducted private practice with him.

And on Thursday night, it was the receivers that caught the eye. Six of them, including three the Cowboys had come to visit – Drake London, taken eighth by the Atlanta Falcons; Chris Olave, who went to the New Orleans Saints at No. 11; and Treylon Burks, picked 18th by the Tennessee Titans — were off the board long before Dallas got on the counter, opening up the prospect for what was considered a position.

Also gone were guards Kenyon Green, drafted 15th by the Houston Texans, and Zion Johnson, who was drafted by the Los Angeles Chargers at No. 17. Both had been mocked by the Cowboys by numerous pundits before the draft for meet a huge need. a left guard.

“Honestly, I didn’t know [where I was going to be picked]”, said Smith. “I thought it would be at the end of the first round or the beginning of the second round. I kept the faith. It’s a blessing to be where I am.

Smith certainly understood the Cowboys lingo when he discussed the draft call with team owner Jerry Jones.

“I spoke to Coach Jerry [Jones] on the call,” Smith said. “He said ‘you are blessed. You have a lot of great players to get here. These staff have a very high opinion of you and we look forward to welcoming you here. It was crazy.”

A 6-foot-5, 324-pound mammoth of an offensive lineman, Smith could open up his career at guard. He is considered raw, but has an average streak and a huge upside as the team of the future’s potential left tackle.

The last three offensive linemen taken by the Cowboys in the first round were tackle Tyron Smith in 2011, center Travis Frederick in 2013, and guard Zack Martin in 2014. All three became Pro Bowl and All-Pro players in short order. Frederick was forced to retire due to injury, but Smith and Martin are still in the game and Smith said he was excited to learn and play alongside them.

On the offensive side of the ball, the Cowboys entered the draft needing immediate receiver help following the trade of Amari Cooper to the Cleveland Browns and offensive guard after Connor Williams joined the Miami Dolphins in free agency. .

Team vice president Stephen Jones said the Cowboys only had 14 players ranked as first-ranked players on their draft board. And while Smith was ranked 16th, team owner Jerry Jones said not only was he higher ranked than Green and Johnson, but he had as many advantages as any player on the board. cowboys.

They also believe Smith has the potential to be a long-term starter at left tackle when Tyron Smith retires, although the Cowboys believe the 11-year veteran still has a long way to go.

Jerry Jones said the Cowboys considered taking a defensive end or linebacker at age 24, but ultimately the team couldn’t let Smith go.

It was a sentiment shared by at least one other team. While the Cowboys were on the hook, the team’s top brass turned down a trade offer from another team which they later discovered was also looking to target Smith with the pick.

“It was predetermined that he was the leader of the clubhouse if we had the choice,” said Jerry Jones. “We didn’t need to have a big discussion and debate. It was about as clear on the board decision as I saw – unanimous decision in the room – as when he came to use, and we had a choice to take it.

Tyler Smith will open up his career at left guard and left tackle and hopefully compete for a starting spot at first.

“Tyler will come in, and he’ll have a flexible position and be a left-sided player,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “So it’s an opportunity to represent both left guard and left tackle position. That’s where we’re going to pitch him. I’m really excited about what he brings in terms of his style of play. “I think he’s a very good candidate for our offensive line room. I’m excited for what’s ahead of him.”

The impetuous side

One of the things the Cowboys love about Smith’s game is his aggressive approach, which could even be described as a mean streak.

Another potential area of ​​concern has been his penchant for penalties. In 12 games at Tulsa last season, Smith drew 12 flags, which was the third FBS offensive lineman. He committed seven fouls in 14 games over the previous two seasons.

The Cowboys offensive line handed down a league-high 49 penalties last season, but the coach isn’t worried Smith’s behavior will add to the unit’s problems.

“I’m definitely aware of his performance last year, but they’re definitely two different topics in my opinion,” McCarthy said. “Obviously playing at Tulsa and obviously our team this year, I really don’t see any correlation to that. We have to focus on penalties. We’ve already taken those steps in our offseason program in terms of the emphasis we have to do better, especially in the fundamentals areas, so Tyler will be part of the program when he gets here, and I have no concerns.

“The biggest thing is that he has a huge ceiling. He’s 21. His mistakes, his penalties, were aggressive in nature. You’d rather be dealing with combative penalties and things you can learn from.

Smith has only played four full seasons on the offensive line since high school where he played defensive tackle for his first two seasons. He knows he has room to improve and is excited to continue that process in Dallas.

Smith played in four games, starting two, as a rookie at Tulsa in 2019 before going redshirt. He got a full-time starting role at left tackle in 2020, earning a few freshman All-America endorsements. Smith started 12 games at left tackle as a redshirt sophomore in 2021, before declaring early for the draft.

“I want to be mean and physical,” Smith said. “I want to be dominant. I want to keep this part of my game present. I will take the coaching. Working with Tyron Smith and Zack Martin will definitely improve me. »

The Cowboys have eight picks in the final two days of the draft. The second round begins at 6 p.m. Friday and the Cowboys will pick at No. 56 and No. 88 in the third round. The draft begins at 11 a.m. Saturday, with the Cowboys to make six picks — No. 129 in the fourth round; nos. 155, 167, 176 and 178 in the fifth round; and No. 193 in the sixth round.

This story was originally published April 28, 2022 9:49 p.m.

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Clarence E. Hill Jr. has covered the Dallas Cowboys as a writer/columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram since 1997. That includes just two playoff wins, six coaches and countless controversies since the demise of the teams from the dynasty of the 1990s through the roller coaster years of the Tony Romo era to Jason Garrett’s Cowboys process.

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