DALLAS — There was trepidation about the Dallas Cowboys' 2022 first-round pick, but Tyler Smith may have helped win the argument early.
The Pro Football Writers of America announced their annual all-rookie team on Tuesday and there was a spot for the Cowboys' versatile offensive lineman from Tulsa. Initially drafted to play left guard, Smith was kicked out to left tackle when All-Pro Tyron Smith suffered a hamstring tear late during training camp. Dallas didn't look back as the younger Smith started all 17 games with most coming at left tackle.
When the elder Smith did return in Week 15, the Cowboys moved the veteran to right tackle to replace an injured Terence Steele rather than interfere with any of the progress the former North Crowley High School product was making at left tackle.
"It was huge for me," Smith said on Jan. 17. "It just showed how much trust they had in me as a player for the organization. It meant a lot. Just definitely trying to pay it forward in my preparation. That’s an honor. Nothing’s guaranteed at this level. For them to trust me with something like that, it’s huge for me."
Cowboys EVP Stephen Jones told "GBag Nation" on 105.3 "The Fan" [KRLD-FM] Jan. 20 he thought Smith's versatility was being overlooked throughout the Cowboys' 12-5 season.
"I do think Tyler has been a little underrated," said Smith. "I mean, he’s a rookie. Had all minicamp, all training camp playing guard, playing left guard, and then Tyron [Smith] goes down and he immediately goes back to what he did in college and goes and plays left tackle, and then he swings back and forth when we need him. What more can you ask for out of a rookie? His versatility has been so valuable to us being able to move him around, starting with Tyron, letting him play his natural spot to start the training camp off there. And, then, of course moving out to left tackle and letting us get our best five with Connor [McGovern] out there. And, then, of course, when we felt like it was better to have [Jason] Peters at tackle, he moved right back in there at [left] guard. When Peters got hurt, he’s back out at left tackle. His confidence is there. He obviously is only going to keep getting better as a young football player, take his arrow straight up."
As the Cowboys look to another offseason to figure out how to put together a team that qualifies for its first NFC Championship Game since 1996, Smith is a piece in the offensive line that they may be able to build around.
Said Jones: "We really think we got us a, you know, a Hell of a — I’ll call him an ‘offensive lineman’ now, but I do think ultimately he’s our left tackle for the future in Tyler Smith.”
The Cowboys are no stranger to seeing their top picks earn accolades in recent years. Dallas’ 2021 first-rounder, linebacker Micah Parsons, was a natural for the PFWA all-rookie team, and even took home the PFWA's Rookie of the Year honors.
What were your impressions of rookie Tyler Smith in his debut season with the Cowboys? Share your thoughts with Mark on Twitter @therealmarklane.