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Analysis: Cowboys opt for offensive lineman Tyler Smith as talented work in progress

The Dallas Cowboys targeted an upgrade for their offensive line but they might need to be patient with first-rounder Tyler Smith.

DALLAS — Fans of the Dallas Cowboys waited four-plus months for the team to make their move to get better. Free agency hasn’t brought much help, but the draft is where the Cowboys like to build. 

One of the areas where the team needed a makeover was the offensive line, which was a unit that struggled last season and had been getting a little long in the tooth. 

With the 24th pick in the 2022 NFL draft, the Cowboys took a step toward improving the offensive line by selecting Tulsa tackle Tyler Smith.

Smith can step in right away and help, and he’ll likely be competing for the starting left guard position. Although he played mostly left tackle at Tulsa, Smith’s NFL game might translate better to guard at the start and, if he develops, he could be looked at as the future at left tackle. The versatility of Smith is surely something the Cowboys liked.

Smith’s got some of the traits that teams look for in an offensive lineman. Smith earned high marks in athleticism and strength during the lead up, and he has a nasty disposition. Those are qualities you look for in and he has the tools to grow into a dominant force.

However, Smith is also seen as a bit of a raw player who might be a project as he adjusts to the pro game. His scouting report doesn’t read like a player who should’ve been a first-round selection, but the Cowboys tabbed Smith as their man nonetheless.

At just 21 years old, there’s lots of room for improvement. During the draft process, according to Pro Football Network, one scout noted that it will take time and effort to reach his potential. 

“At his peak projection, he could legitimately be a dominant player,” said the scout. “However, there’s a lot of work to do before he gets to that point.” 

Smith may develop into a great piece for the offensive line, but with the expectations high for the Cowboys following a first round playoff exit, they need help right now. Taking a player who needs significant work doesn’t seem like the best way to spend a first-round selection.

There is also an issue with penalties where Smith got flagged 12 times last season. 

After the Cowboys were one of the most-penalized teams in the league last year, and have talked about cleaning that up moving forward, it seems like a dangerous selection. The Cowboys moved on from left guard Connor Williams after he led the league in penalties at the position last season, after all.

Smith might be a wonderful player, but it didn’t feel like Dallas’ night. Most of the top offensive linemen who the Cowboys could have been eyeing over Smith went off the board early. Kenyon Green, Zion Johnson, and Trevor Penning were gone well before pick No. 24. Including the other three top tackles who went off the board, the team had to have felt like Smith was the best player remaining at a position they clearly marked as a need.

The same can be said at wide receiver, where six of the top options went in the first 18 picks. And instead of selecting a higher rated defensive player, the draft’s top rated center Tyler Linderbaum, or trading back, the Cowboys made their pick.

Despite the objection of almost everyone in Cowboys Nation for the pick, the scouts and talent evaluators in Dallas clearly believe in the potential of Smith. Cowboys fans who aren’t happy right now will have to hope their assessments of Smith are wrong. At this time last year, there was a high number of fans who hated the selection of Micah Parsons and he seems to have turned out OK as the reigning Defensive Rookie of the Year. 

Smith will have the opportunity to prove himself, just as Parsons did. Working next to another Smith who came into the league young – All-Pro left tackle Tyron Smith – can only benefit the rookie. 

Tyler Smith is now a Dallas Cowboy, and his story has yet to be told. The first chapter is one of frustration from the faithful, but hopefully there’s a happy ending for Smith and the Cowboys.

Are you happy with Tyler Smith as the first round pick of the Dallas Cowboys? Share your thoughts with Ben on Twitter @BenGrimaldi

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