After a nasty knee injury in last year’s Fiesta Bowl, Jaylon Smith’s NFL career was thought to be in jeopardy. However, that didn’t sway the Cowboys from betting on him as they made Smith their second-round selection with the 34th overall pick in the 2016 Draft. A lot of time as passed and the Cowboys are really excited about what he will bring to the team this season. But is that for real or is it just Jerry Jones being overly optimistic? For us fans, we’ve heard the news that the nerve is firing, but we’ve also heard that he still has “drop-foot” and will require a brace. How do we really know what the team expects from him this year?
Well, actions speak louder than words and seeing him perform on the field will be the ultimate litmus test. But there are some other actions that are speaking as well and that pertains to the Cowboys draft plans in a couple weeks. The linebacker spot is a taxing position and every year the team throws a resource or two at some new bodies. If you look at all the drafts during the Jason Garrett era, every single one of them features at least one linebacker taken. In fact, three of those seasons included two linebackers drafted.
Taking a linebacker is like clockwork for the Cowboys. It’s just something we’ve come to expect.
But one thing that is puzzling however is that if you sift through the Cowboys pre-draft visitors, there is not one single linebacker on the list. Not one. It should be noted that not every LB the Cowboys have drafted over the last six years have received an invite. The invite list isn’t an absolute as to eligible candidates for Dallas, but it does lay down some nice groundwork. For example, the Cowboys invited a considerable amount of quarterbacks and running backs last year for pre-draft visits. They were determined get a player at those positions and sure enough they ended up with Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott. Similarly this year, the greater majority of invites are defensive ends and defensive backs and we are all expecting at least one players from those positions.
But again, no linebackers are on the list.
Does that mean the Cowboys won’t draft one? Not necessarily. The Cowboys will have a pretty good size board and you can bet there will be linebackers on it so it’s still possible they draft one. But based on the invite list, it’s not a position the team is giving much attention towards. They must feel good about what they have at this position to not show any real interest in top round LB prospects. Sean Lee has had two straight healthy seasons and their potential star linebacker from Notre Dame appears to be penciled in as a key contributor for the upcoming season. And if anyone is still wondering about Rolando McClain’s future in Dallas, this little tidbit of information is rather telling.
Looks like the double-nickel is allocated to someone else now. “Freight Train” McClain has derailed in big D.
The team also has Anthony Hitchens and Damien Wilson on the roster. Their depth at the position is pretty solid. But if we read the writing on the wall, the team appears to be content rolling with Lee and Smith for the 2017 season. And if they like it, I like it. And once #54 gets going on the field, we will all like it.
The Cowboys drafted Smith with the idea that they’d get a top-five player, with the understanding they’d have to wait a year to reap the benefits. And if things didn’t work out, they could always go another direction and try something else. Considering there is little interest in the linebackers in this draft, this could be a sign that they are right on track to carry out their original plan.