FRISCO, Texas – A decade in the NFL can go by in a blink.
Consider this: 2022 first-round draft pick Tyler Smith was only 10 years old when the Cowboys selected Tyron Smith in the first round of the 2011 draft.
In 11 seasons since, Smith has put together a Hall of Fame worthy career featuring eight Pro Bowl selections and a spot on the 2010s All-Decade Team. At 31, the Cowboys believe he's got plenty left in the tank despite injuries that have sidelined him for 28 games in the past six years.
That said, Thursday night might have been the start of a succession plan at left tackle.
"We think he (Tyler Smith) can be our left tackle for a long time at some point in time," Cowboys chief operating officer Stephen Jones said after the club drafted Smith with the 24th overall pick. "Obviously, we've got the best in the business now in Tyron Smith. But at some point, (with) his ability, we really believe he could be a top, top left tackle."
The Cowboys are in no rush with that projection. Tyler Smith (6-5, 324) just turned 21 years old three weeks ago. He only had 23 starts -- all at left tackle -- in three seasons at Tulsa. Penalties were an issue at times, but the club believes those are correctable with more coaching and more time on task.
"He has a tremendous ceiling," head coach Mike McCarthy said.
"The No. 1 thing is, he's a big, athletic, physical man that's going to play in a big, athletic, physical league, and that's what we liked about him," vice president of player personnel Will McClay said.
The immediate plan is for Smith to take left-side reps at both tackle and guard. Obviously, Tyron Smith's left tackle spot is solidified, but left guard is still open for competition. Connor Williams and Connor McGovern split starts there last season, and Williams signed a free-agent deal with the Dolphins in March.
Perhaps Tyler Smith can win the left guard job as a rookie and start his career there. That remains to be seen, but the Cowboys did grade him higher than two other first-round guards who were drafted ahead of him: Zion Johnson (Chargers; 17th pick) and Kenyon Green (Texans; 15th pick).
Smith had the 16th-highest grade on the Cowboys' board, team owner/general manager Jerry Jones said, and the front office knew they couldn't wait until Friday's second round to draft him. In fact, one team gauged their interest in trading back from No. 24, and after Dallas declined and selected Smith, Stephen Jones got a text from that team's draft room that read, "Be glad you didn't trade with us. That was our guy."
Smith, who grew up in Fort Worth about 30 minutes from AT&T Stadium, is thrilled to be playing in his hometown. He went through a private pre-draft workout with the Cowboys but didn't get a hint about where he might play on the line if drafted.
"I'll fit in wherever they put me," he said. "Being able to work with Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, Terence Steele and guys like that, it's a dream come true. Those are true vets. It doesn't get any better than that, and to be able to learn from them – first team All-Pro for numerous years – it's a blessing to get to work with those guys."