While free agency officially begins in March, roster turnover isn't too far away. The Cowboys will indeed add and presumably release players, along with letting some go without a new contract.
However, the majority of the 2018 roster is already in place. In the coming weeks, the staff of DallasCowboys.com will preview those players, analyzing where they've been and where they're going.
Today, we continue the series with fullback Keith Smith.
Views of #41 Fullback Keith Smith from the 2017-18 Regular Season.
What's Been Good:
Smith embodies what head coach Jason Garrett looks for in a player: versatile, dependable, consistent. Cut countless times in the past, the ex-linebacker finally found a steady role in 2016 with a full-time conversion to fullback. The Cowboys first tried Smith at fullback in a simulation role on the practice squad. He turned out to be a natural at the position, applying his linebacker experience in reading the defense and making lead blocks. Although he didn't have a carry in 2017, he had five catches for 26 yards and tied for second on the team with 10 special teams tackles.
What's Been Bad:
Hard to find major flaws in Smith's game, though he does have a reduced offensive role – he played only 129 of a possible 1,068 offensive snaps this past season. The Cowboys often use Ezekiel Elliott without a lead blocker but have found success with Smith in the game, particularly in short-yardage situations. However, the Cowboys are looking for more overall consistency from the offense, including the run game with Elliott and pass protection for quarterback Dak Prescott.
Here's proof of how far Smith has come in his move to offense. With the Cowboys trailing 28-24 to the Packers last October, Smith made a critical third-and-1 conversion with a 4-yard catch at Green Bay's 40-yard line. The Cowboys would eventually score a touchdown to take the lead with 1:13 remaining, just before Aaron Rodgers stole the lead back for good. But Smith showed on that drive that he can be a reliable option for Prescott in the passing game.
Unless the Cowboys find more ways to get an extra tight end involved as a blocker, or unless they add some true competition at fullback – a position that's no longer a standard part of college-level offenses – Smith should continue his role on offense. Garrett still sees value in a lead blocker from his days as a teammate of Daryl "Moose" Johnston in the 1990s. And Smith is also as valuable special teams player. He played 257 of a possible 425 snaps on special teams and made an important block on the fake punt that helped keep the Cowboys' season alive at Oakland in December.
- Smith is a player every roster needs.
- Can do so many things for your club when you dress him on the 46-man roster for game day.
- Wasn't so sure at first how he would have worked blocking in front of Ezekiel Elliott, but he has made it work.
- He's underrated as a pass receiver out of the backfield and out wide, not to mention his role on special teams.