When the Dallas Cowboys went on the clock with the ninth overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, they had a lot of options to consider. After months of analyzing that draft class, two names rose to the top. Wisconsin defensive end J.J. Watt and USC offensive tackle Tyron Smith were both available when Dallas went on the clock. Watt was a fantastic prospect that would bring another dynamic player on defense. Unfortunately the Cowboys had serious issues on the offensive line and they needed to address the lack of youth and talent there.
By choosing Smith, it was a glimmer of hope that maybe the Cowboys would begin to build something up front. Starting out at right tackle, Tyron had a pretty solid rookie season. I deem it successful because as a 20 year old he came in and started all 16 games. He then made the switch over to left tackle last season, a move which we widely anticipated since he was taken ninth overall.
Last year didn't go as planned. Moving to a new position meant growing pains, but I think that was to be expected with the change. Smith wasn't terrible, but at the same time he wasn't great. The off-the-field issues with his family were a major distraction for the young man and I believe that got into his head and caused him to not play his best football.
For a quick rundown of his family troubles, please check out this article from SportsDayDFW beat writer Brandon George. After reading all of the problems he had last season with his family, it amazes me that he even played average football. Imagine if he can put some of that behind him and actually go out there with a clear head? If he can play average with that much going on in his life, then he can probably really operate at a high level when his life is normal.
Smith is just 22 years old and has been through a lot of ups and downs in his life. He's worked hard to get where he is, but now it's time to start combining his immense talent with hard work and begin to put the pieces together and become a complete player.
Many fans of this team will ponder if the left tackle was the right selection made in 2011. Watt has blossomed into a superstar defensive end, while Smith hasn't even come close to being on that level of stardom. It's possible our left tackle will never become the type of player Watt is, but frankly I would be shocked if Smith doesn't pan out as one of the better offensive lineman in the NFL.
Mainly it's because of my ongoing belief that this kid is one of the most physically gifted specimen I have ever watched. His combination of strength and athleticism combined with a long wingspan and toned physique are the perfect criteria to play left tackle. His footwork continues to improve and if he finally gets his head in the right place, the sky is the limit for him.
2013 could be a make or break year for Tyron. If he begins to dominate, his confidence could carry him to a Pro Bowl caliber type of player and honestly we need that from him. He can start with cutting down on the penalties (seven false start penalties in 2012) and showing more focus. Physically he's a freak and once he gets his hands on you, it's basically a wrap for the defensive lineman. Fine tuning some of his blocking technique and getting over the mental stuff should help him get to the next level in his development.
He's a very young player who now has 31 career starts under his belt. If Smith can elevate his game in 2013, then he may be on his way to living up to some of the lofty expectations that came with him when he got drafted.