Re-grading the Dallas Cowboys 2016 draft, seven years later

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /
2 of 7

Round 2, Pick #34 – Jaylon Smith

Jaylon Smith is the Dallas Cowboys’ riskiest pick of the 2016 NFL Draft and was likely the riskiest of the entire draft. Jaylon was drafted with the thirty-fourth overall pick and recovering from a terrible knee injury suffered on January 1, 2016, which caused nerve damage. As a result, a few analysts stated he was “undraftable,” and many medical professionals told him he might never play football again.

Smith defied all odds and would return to the field in 2017 after missing his entire rookie year. He started six games, forced two fumbles, one sack, three tackles for loss, and placed fourth in comeback player of the year voting.

Jaylon Smith would continue to excel alongside rookie Leighton Vander Esch through the 2018 season to earn a contract extension with the Cowboys for six years at $68,421,000. Much like Ezekiel Elliott, it appeared that Smith would be a hit through his first four years. However, from 2018-2020, Jaylon Smith had the sixth most tackles (254) in the league, four forced fumbles, five fumble recoveries, and one touchdown, which led to a Pro Bowl nomination.

With a glimpse of success, Smith became a star in the NFL, but the honeymoon phase soon began to wear off. From 2017-2020 Jaylon played in 54 games as a starter. In 2021, he played in ten games and started in only four. He also played for three teams: Dallas, Green Bay, and New York (Giants). Smith is now a free agent and played thirteen games for the New York Giants in 2022.
Jaylon Smith’s future is uncertain, but we know that his time with Dallas is done, and they have moved on from their former second-round pick. Although he did provide flashes of promise, Smith proved to be a risk that wasn’t worth taking. Then, to top it all off, Myles Jack was selected two picks later by the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Individual Grade: C