Cowboys draft Tyler Smith: A surprise pick, but could be a short-term and long-term fix

2022 NFL Draft follow-up: Live blog and pick-by-pick analysis

Despite several notable defensive players on the board, the Cowboys used the 24th overall pick on Tulsa offensive lineman Tyler Smith. This one was a bit of a surprise given some of the other options still available, but it shows just how much the Cowboys feel they need to improve on an offensive line that was a significant disappointment last season.

Provisional notes: Sheil Kapadia weighs in on the choices
Big board best available: Who is left of Dane Brugler’s Top 300?

Introduction: He’s one of the youngest players in this draft, just turned 21 this month, and he’s only played on offense for five years. But Smith’s 6-foot-4, 324-pound potential is why the Dallas Cowboys drafted him with the 24th pick in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft on Thursday.

He is powerful and aggressive. Pro Football Focus gave him a 93.9 run blocking rating in 2021, the highest ever for an offensive tackle in the American Athletic Conference. He also committed 12 holding penalties, as his hands and fundamentals need work. But all the physical tools are there.

“He’s one of the strongest guys I’ve ever seen, offensively,” Tulsa head coach Philip Montgomery said. “His athleticism is a bit overlooked. He needs to clean up some technical stuff, I think every NFL team would say that. But he’s so strong and athletic that he can be out of position and should be beaten, but he ends up coming back just because he can physically move people. He brings his hips to a block as good as anyone we’ve been around. This is going to pay dividends to the next level.

Big Board ranking: Smith was ranked No. 50 on Dane Brugler’s Top 300 prospect list. He was Brugler’s sixth offensive tackle.

How it fits: Smith, Brugler’s sixth-ranked offensive tackle, has the ability to play both guard and tackle. He will most likely have every chance of starting at left guard and eventually becoming the team’s left tackle of the future. Starting left tackle Tyron Smith, 31, has struggled with injury issues for the past six seasons. His best years are probably behind him, so it makes sense that Tyler Smith is his heir apparent.

Second guess? There were several notable defensive players still available at the time, such as Utah LB Devin Lloyd, Florida State DE Jermaine Johnson, Purdue DE George Karlaftis, Georgia LB Nakobe Dean, and Clemson CB Andrew Booth. Smith said he thinks he’ll be drafted somewhere late in the first round or early in the second. Although he had a private pre-draft practice session with Cowboys assistant offensive line coach Jeff Blasko, he didn’t expect Dallas to pick him up at 24.

Rookie Impact: He will have every chance to start as a left guard. It’s hard to believe the Cowboys drafted him in the first round if he wasn’t going to start immediately. With Connor Williams now in Miami, Smith’s contender for that position is Connor McGovern. But if the Cowboys thought enough of McGovern, they never would have drafted Smith. Speaking of Williams, who struggled with too many penalties last season, Smith was flagged 16 times last season.

Quick assessment: The fit makes sense. The offensive line was one of Dallas’ biggest needs, but it was expected the Cowboys could get someone like Boston College offensive guard Zion Johnson or Texas A&M offensive guard Kenyon Green. The two were long gone at 24. There was also the possibility Dallas could trade for Northern Iowa offensive tackle Trevor Penning, but he left the roster at 19 and the Cowboys seemed content to take the best player available.

“Being able to play for Team USA is a dream come true,” said Smith, a native of North Texas. “I grew up watching this team. … I’ll fit in wherever they put me. To be able to work with Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, Terence Steele, guys like that, it’s a dream come true. It’s not okay better than that. Being able to learn from (Tyron Smith) is a blessing for sure.

“I played tackle in college, but I’m willing to play wherever they put me. I am comfortable everywhere.

(Photo: Justin Casterline/Getty Images)

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