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Draft Central | 2022

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Eatman: Tyler Smith Could Be A "Now & Later" Pick


FRISCO, Texas – There's a lot of different names that get labeled with a pick.

Maybe it's a "need" pick. Or a "best player available" pick. Maybe it's a pick for now or a pick for later.

In this rare case of the 2022 NFL Draft that was a crazy as we all expected it to be, the Cowboys drafted Tyler Smith from Tulsa in a move that might actually hit all of those categories, and then some.

It's a need pick for sure – the Cowboys have issues on the offensive line and Smith could come in and start immediately at left guard.

What about best available player? From what I've gathered, he was the second-highest player on their board, only behind a safety and we all know the Cowboys don't draft safeties in the first round anymore.

What about a pick for the now? Yeah, like I said, Smith is expected to come right in and play at guard, giving them some needed size and strength in the middle.

And then what about the later? Yeah, that too. Because not only will he play guard now, but Smith could eventually slide back out to left tackle, perhaps even replacing Tyron Smith at some point.

We've seen that move before, even here in Dallas. Way back in 1998, the Cowboys took Flozell Adams and played him at guard before he moved to left tackle. We've seen La'el Collins play guard as a rookie before moving to tackle. And of course, we've seen Zack Martin move to guard, but after making numerous All-Pro teams in a row, they didn't bother ever moving him back to tackle, but they've certainly hinted at it for years.

My point is, Tyler Smith might be this team's future at left tackle. But my suspicion is he'll be the left guard right away. Now, when I asked that question to Stephen Jones on Thursday night, they didn't want to automatically call him a Day 1 starter.

But I'll say this, if this guy is truly the 16th best player on your board, then he better come right in and start, especially at a position of need.

Now, is he good enough to be a great player? Only time will tell on that.

I don't know what I think of this pick. Sure, he was the guy I mocked to the Cowboys on our last seven-round pick on Monday. But that doesn't exactly mean I'm loving this pick.

There are some things that seem worrisome, including the 12 holding calls he got last year. You'd think with his size, he wouldn't have as many problems blocking guys in the AAC. But then again, the Cowboys love his mean streak, even calling him "nasty" at times. Obviously, that kind of player is going to get penalties, you just don't want to see that many holding calls.

I also worry somewhat about the level of competition, having played at Tulsa. It's not like he's seeing consistent pro-level players every week. And typically, the Cowboys stick with the big schools with their first round picks.

In the last 10 years, only Byron Jones (UCONN) was taken in the first round from a non-Power Five school. And he turned out to be a good pick, making a Pro Bowl and later signed a mega deal in free agency.

But that leads me to another point here. It's just funny how all these fans have hate for the pick, just because the media guys they follow didn't have Tyler Smith rated higher on their boards.

Where do you think Tyler Frederick was ranked? How about a third-round pick by guys who study this every week. But the Cowboys saw him as a first.

It happens every year and for the most part, the Cowboys don't miss too often with the first-rounders, especially on the line.

Sure, Taco and Mo Claiborne were misses. But in the last dozen years, they seem to win a lot more often with the guys like Dez, Tyron, Frederick, Zack Martin, Bryon Jones, Zeke, Vander Esch, CeeDee and Micah.

Yeah, I'm calling LVE a "hit" because he made an All-Pro team as a rookie and he did technically sign a second contract. But sure, he's not exactly lighting it up right now but if you make a Pro Bowl, I think it qualifies as a good pick.

Either way, let's wait and see how this plays out for Tyler Smith.

It'll take a few years to fully evaluate him as a great pick. But in the meantime, they just need him to be good, and preferably start at left guard right away.

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