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5 reasons to be optimistic about the Cowboys selection of Tulsa OT Tyler Smith

Let’s focus on the positives of the Cowboys first-round pick.

NFL Combine Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

The selection of Tulsa offensive tackle Tyler Smith brought out a lot of frustration among Cowboys Nation. Part of that came from passing up what we believed were much better prospects, and part of it came from the idea that the team just used their most precious draft resource on a player who has a lot to clean up before he’s ready to contribute on the field. That is certainly not encouraging.

A couple of weeks ago, Smith was a player specifically mentioned as someone who could totally mess up the Cowboys draft if selected at 24. And even when we started hearing rumblings that he could be the Cowboys' first-round target, it was hard to build up any enthusiasm for him. I even took to Twitter Thursday morning to express a plea for it not to happen and vowed to not place lipstick on a pig and convince myself it’s a good move just for the sake of being supportive of this team.

But whether or not we like this pick, we can safely say the Cowboys love the pick. Jerry Jones came out and said in the post-draft presser that they had Smith ahead of both Kenyon Green and Zion Johnson. Yowzer! And Stephen Jones even talked about how another team was trying to trade up to pick 24 to select Smith themselves. Apparently, people love Smith, and today we’re going to focus on some of the reasons why.

He’s young

At just 21-years-old, the Texas native is just a pup. It’s no secret that his fundamentals need a complete makeover, but this would be a much more concerning issue if he was older. He red-shirted his first year at Tulsa and only had a couple of full seasons logging snaps. Smith had two more years of college eligibility but made the decision to enter the NFL draft this year. While that presents an incredibly raw prospect right now, one wonders what we could be looking at if he played an additional year in college. With all the hype about his raw ability, it’s not unreasonable to believe he could be one of next year’s top overall draft picks with another year of college under his belt.

The move to guard may serve him well

It’s extremely discouraging to see him struggle as much as he does in certain areas. His hand placement is all over the place. Add some poor footwork to the mix and you have a hot mess waiting to happen. Whether it’s grabbing defenders on the outside or his attempts at falling on players that have gotten passed him, Smith draws way too much laundry.

While the penalties are concerning, a move inside could be one of the easiest ways to help remedy this. At guard, he won’t have to hand battle slippery edge rushers nor will his flawed kick step put him in precarious situations. Much improvement is still needed with his fundamentals before he can be totally trusted, but just this change of scenery alone will help offset some of his biggest deficiencies.

He’s a really good run blocker

Pass protection is a real challenge for him, but the things he does well allow him to be a huge asset in the run game. He has nice athleticism to attack in the second level. Once engaged, defenders are not escaping as his hands are so strong, allowing Smith to open up running lanes. And he’s a punisher. He loves to bury his man and is relentless in ensuring someone is going to the ground. With such appealing run-blocking traits, it’s not surprising that Pro Football Focus grades him out extremely well.

He has a natural ability

Projecting a player’s potential is a tricky thing, which is what makes the NFL draft so alluring. Some teams go after college production, and some go after traits. And it’s wonderful when a player offers up both.

Smith is not one of those players. He’s all about the traits. He has great length with 34-inch arms and an 83 1/8-inch wingspan. He’s a big guy at 324 pounds, but also possesses very good agility. Smith has the bend and leg power to drive through opponents as well as the upper body strength to toss them aside. The correct steps may not be there, but the athleticism is.

The same goes for his hands. He has poor placement, but very strong grip strength. And yes, he plays with a nasty temperament, which is an endearing quality for a trench warrior. With so much said about his lack of fundamentals, it also speaks volumes about his natural ability that he’s actually still capable of being as effective as he has been. If he’s a good run blocker now, just wait until he’s able to correct some bad habits. Fundamentals can be developed, but as for physical characteristics? You either have them or you don’t. Smith has them.

In Will we trust

We all have our opinions about how good of a drafting team the Cowboys are. Some applaud them, others don’t. While there is some meaningful data that shows the Cowboys have been one of the better drafting teams over the past decade, some people have a hard time believing it.

On the surface, this latest selection might have some questioning the team’s drafting ability even more; however, maybe we are looking at this the wrong way. Instead of questioning their ability to assess players, maybe we should question our ability to judge their assessment of players? Have they not earned the benefit of the doubt? The team has a remarkable track record on Day 1 of the draft and every time they have selected an offensive lineman in the first round since 2011, they have turned them into an All-Pros. Our own Aidan Davis says it perfectly.

We broke down what the selection of Tyler Smith means for the Dallas Cowboys on the Blogging The Boys YouTube Channel:

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