The 2011 draft was actually a very predictable one for the Cowboys. Right up until the last few weeks, we basically knew it was either going to be Tyron Smith, Wisconsin defensive end J.J. Watt, or a trade down.
Many fans wanted a trade down, but I was totally against it. I didn't feel like Anthony Castonzo or Nate Solder were anywhere near the type of talent Smith was. When the Cowboys finally went on the clock, they took their sweet time and ran the clock all the way down to 0:19 seconds left. Now it was pretty obvious to me the Cowboys were probably attempting to work a trade, but fortunately they didn't get a deal good enough to make them move out of the 9th overall pick.
It's hindsight, but there were two other players available who would have made sense for the Cowboys. Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara would have filled a position of need. Once considered a top-ten pick, Amukamara fell all the way to the New York Giants and the 19th overall pick. Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley also appeared to be a top-ten pick, but fell to the Detroit Lions and the 13th overall pick.
Did the Cowboys make the right decision? I would say yes considering the success Smith had in his rookie season while Amukamara and Fairley struggled with injuries and never performed at a high level when they did play. That doesn't mean they won't develop into excellent football players, it just means as of right now Smith was the right decision. The only player you could argue for is Watt, who had a disruptive season for the Houston Texans as a five-technique defensive end, a position we all hope is finally answered by the selection of Tyrone Crawford.
Smith is one of, if not the best, offensive tackle prospect to come out in a very long time. Many people said that Smith would be a bad draft pick because he was only a right tackle, but this summer that is about to change.
What is in store for Tyron in 2012? Take the jump to find out...
There were some questions about Tyron Smith last year. I thought he would gain weight and test well at the combine, which he did. A major concern that people had about him was his weight. Smith never had a problem in this area when he beefed up in order to be better prepared for the NFL level. He is currently listed at 6'5, 311 pounds on the mothership. He was one of those prospects that just stood out on tape, if you couldn't see the talent this kid had, then you weren't really watching the footage. Not only did he have the frame to grow, he had the game tape that suggested he was a stud in the making.
One of the major selling points about Smith was that he had the talent to move over to left tackle. After a disappointing year for Doug Free at the blind side, Jason Garrett will be flip flopping the tackles. In my opinion, it's one of the best decisions Garrett has made since he has taken over as the head coach.
Free was a complete beast at right tackle in 2009 when he took over for the injured Marc Colombo. To this day, I still do not understand why they took Free out of the lineup and re-inserted Colombo. In 2010 Free was a very good left tackle, but for whatever reason he never got completely out of the funk he was in last year. It's really a simple fix because Free has been dominate on the right side and is clearly more comfortable there. Smith has the frame and skill set to dominate either side, but he looks like a franchise left tackle.
New offensive line coach Bill Callahan has coached an offensive tackle that was compared to Smith last year, D'Brickashaw Ferguson. Recently Callahan had nothing but rave reviews for his new toy at left tackle.
For more than a decade, Callahan has coached several talented NFL offensive linemen, but he said he's "never had anybody like" Smith.
"He is just very strong, very lean, very explosive," Callahan said, "and he can carry those traits over to the left side because of his athleticism."
Callahan has been around some really good offensive lineman, so for him to say that about Tyron is very good news. As for Jason Garrett, he also had some very encouraging comments about his young offensive tackle.
"If you remember, Tyron last year was a Minute 1 starter for us when we started training camp, a young kid, 20 years old at the time, no offseason and stepped in and just said, ‘OK, I’ll fight my way through these mistakes. I understand what’s going on. I can play at the level they need me to play at.’ And he got better and better every day. We expect him to take the same approach when he moves over to the left side."
"He’s a pretty serious-minded guy," Garrett said. "There’s no question about that. One of the things that we felt like we knew about him when we drafted him was he was tough. He was tough physically, and he was tough mentally, and he was willing to work. That was every report we got from the people at USC. We’ve been given no indication that the report from college is any different from what we’ve seen. He’s been that way since Day 1."
It's amazing to think about this, but Smith is actually the youngest player on this team, including the 2012 draft class. He already has 16 NFL starts under his belt and his ceiling is limitless. It may not have been exciting to draft him because he was an offensive lineman, but drafting players of his caliber is how you build good football teams. Smith is the total "RKG" and is willing to put in the extra work in order to succeed in the NFL. If you could have a 53-man roster made up of his type, I guarantee you you would be in the hunt for the Super Bowl.
There could be some bumps in the road for Smith at left tackle. I don't expect the 21 year old tackle to completely dominate the entire season. Watch the pre-season games closely to see how well Smith adjusts to the blind side, but after some real game experience I expect him to pick it up and perform like a veteran.
If Doug Free bounces back from the average season he had last year, then the Cowboys may have the best bookend offensive tackles in the league. What do you expect from Free and Smith in 2012? I expect greatness, but I am a Tyron supporter until my last breath, so I may be biased, but I also believe in Free's ability to dominate from the right tackle position. The tackles are set, but can the guards and center step it up?