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Looking back at the Cowboys success at drafting offensive linemen in the first round

Dallas has an impressive résumé in drafting offensive linemen in the first round of the NFL draft. So let’s take a look back at their recent selections and how they panned out.

SPORTS-FBN-HILL-COLUMN-FT Amanda McCoy/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

It’s no secret that drafting an offensive lineman in the first round of the NFL draft can be less than exciting. However, they can prove to be some of the most valuable selections for a team. The Cowboys are a good example of this being true. They spent a first-round pick on OL Tyler Smith in the 2022 NFL draft, and it paid off big for the team last season. BTB writer Tony Catalina wrote an article about Smith, and it led to a good discussion in the comment section.

Do we ever miss on first round OL???
Asking for a friend
This past decade the answer would be no.

Let’s look back at the recent offensive line selections in the first round of the draft for the Cowboys:

2022 NFL Draft: OT Tyler Smith, pick 24

When the Dallas Cowboys drafted Smith in the 2022 draft, many Cowboys fans were frustrated with the selection. The tackle out of Tulsa led the NCAA in penalties among offensive linemen in his final collegiate season before being drafted.

The Cowboys intended to move Smith to the inside at left guard in his rookie season. However, when LT Tyron Smith got injured before the start of the regular season, Tyler Smith had to start the season at left tackle. Smith never looked back, as he impressed throughout the entire season in his rookie year.

Regardless of the position that Smith plays for the Dallas Cowboys, he will continue to be a crucial player for the team going forward.

2014 NFL Draft: OG Zack Martin, pick 16

While the Cowboys have had inconsistencies and injuries across the offensive line over the last decade, one thing has remained constant. Zack Martin is among the best offensive linemen across the league. Martin has been a pivotal contributor for the Cowboys since he was selected over Heisman-winning college QB Johnny Manziel in the 2014 draft.

He is a sure future first-ballot Hall of Fame inductee regardless of how the rest of his career goes. He has not only solidified himself as one of the best offensive linemen in Cowboys history, but also one of the best in the history of the league.

2013 NFL Draft: C Travis Frederick, pick 31

While he was a controversial pick at the time, center Travis Frederick ended up aging very well for the Cowboys. In 2013, Frederick became the first rookie in franchise history to start all 16 games at center, leading to a selection to the NFL All-Rookie team.

He followed this up with four straight Pro Bowl selections from 2014-2017, including a First-Team AP All-Pro selection in 2016. He made his fifth Pro Bowl in 2019. In 2018, Frederick was diagnosed with Guillain–Barré syndrome. Concerns with his health ultimately led to his early retirement on March 23, 2020.

While his career was short-lived, he was very successful and impactful in his time with the Cowboys organization. The Cowboys certainly made a great selection at pick 31 of the 2013 draft.

2011 NFL Draft: OT Tyron Smith, pick 9

Tyron Smith has been one of the best left tackles in the NFL since he entered the league in 2011. He only missed one game for the team in the first five seasons of his career, starting every other game he played in. This led to him signing an unprecedented eight-year contract extension with the team in 2014. The contract was worth roughly $110 million and guaranteed him $40 million.

Smith was selected to the Pro Bowl for seven consecutive seasons from 2013-2019. He was selected to First-Team AP All-Pro in 2014 and 2016.

As dominant as Smith has been since being drafted by the Cowboys, he hasn’t been able to play every game of the regular season since 2015 when he started all 16. To put it in perspective, Smith has never been able to play a full season while QB Dak Prescott has played for the Cowboys.

While Smith has had a Hall-of-Fame caliber career, the team will rely on him hopefully staying healthy in the 2023 season when they look to contend for a Super Bowl.

While offensive lineman may not be the flashiest position to spend a first-round pick on, the Dallas Cowboys have been incredibly efficient at selecting them in the first round. The scouting department and Will McClay certainly deserve their flowers for their analysis of offensive line prospects leading up to the draft.

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