Dallas Cowboys rookie Tyler Smith ranks 2nd amongst OTs

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports /

Dallas Cowboys fans didn’t know what they were getting when the Cowboys selected Tyler Smith with the 24th pick of the 2023 NFL Draft. The Cowboys clearly needed to address their offensive line early. From guard, to center, to tackle it was a mess down the stretch. But the actual selection of the lineman from Tulsa was still a surprise to most.

Tyler Smith was a name most draftniks knew of fairly early in the process. He was a powerful lineman who stood out on film and unquestionably had the tools needed to succeed in the NFL. Where he would go exactly, was the question.

Most boards placed Smith somewhere in the 25-50 range of the draft. He led the universe in penalties, and after watching the film, he could have have about a dozen more flags. He wasn’t technically sound and relied on his raw skills most of the time.

But you can’t teach traits and Smith had some elite ones. The Dallas Cowboys saw an elite athlete with generational strength. They saw a replacement to Tyron Smith and cornerstone piece. They saw a first rounder.

Tyler Smith has thrived for the Dallas Cowboys and now ranks amongst the best of his class.

After much consternation with the pick, fans have warmed up to the selection they once bemoaned. There wasn’t a specific player they wanted instead of Smith (like the T.J. Watt – Taco Charlton situation) but Smith seemed like a reach and, at best, a project.

Given his rawness at Tulsa, it was admittedly shocking to see him develop so quickly. He’s still developmentally behind, mind you, but he’s making noticeable changes with his hands, feet, and elbows that allowing him to thrive as a rookie LT.

Pro Football Focus regularly grades and compares rookies of a specific position group to each other. Throughout the first three weeks of the season Tyler Smith has either ranked as the best or the second best OT of his class. Not bad considering the four OTs drafted ahead of him are all ranked behind him.

Tyron Smith is still set to return to the Cowboys this season, but it’s hard to imagine he’ll bump Tyler Smith from the starting job. Even veteran Jason Peters couldn’t knock Smith from his perch. The Cowboys seemed committed to develop Tyler Smith as a LT, and given the arch of his growth, it’s easy to understand why.

Smith still has issues with penalties, both in-game and pre-snap. Those have to be cleaned up. And Kellen Moore has been designing game plans that get the ball out quickly as to not expose his rookie tackle (or his back-up QB). In fact, only Tom Brady on the Bucs spends less time in the pocket than Cooper Rush.

But the point is, Tyler Smith was never supposed to develop this quickly. The reason he wasn’t a top OT prospect was because he was an undeveloped project. If teams (other than the Cowboys) knew he would develop this quickly, he would have been a top-10 pick.

We’re three weeks in so I’m probably getting ahead of myself, but when good things happen we need to talk about it and Tyler Smith’s performance has been a VERY good thing.

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Be happy Cowboys Nation, Tyler Smith is doing well.