The 2017 season wasn’t pretty for the Dallas Cowboys, and perhaps the ugliest moment was at offensive tackle. Given last year’s problems, the position may get some attention in the upcoming 2018 NFL Draft.
In Week 10 in Atlanta, Tyron Smith was out with a back injury and third-year backup Chaz Green got the start on the left side. The Falcons’ Adrian Clayborn had six sacks by himself, of eight total on Dak Prescott, and the 5-3 Cowboys went into a three-game skid.
Of course, Ezekiel Elliott‘s suspension (which began in Week 10) was the primary cause of that losing streak. But Tyron Smith’s health issues were also a major factor in why Dak Prescott struggled last season, and the Cowboys need more from their offensive tackle this year to avoid more disappointment.
The good news is that Smith, according to his own report, is feeling good already. If he can get back to normal, Tyron is one of the elite left tackles in the game. Being confident about what’s going on in his blind spot is crucial for Dak Prescott, so this underrated aspect of Dallas’ 2017 woes is a big thing for a return to playoff contention.
Along with getting Tyron Smith back on track, Dallas will hope for further growth from La’el Collins at right tackle. After switching to the position last year, Collins had some early issues but was much better later on. He also struggled with health, which may have hampered some of that development.
Given everything happened last year, it’s no surprise that Dallas invested some cap dollars into the OT depth chart. They signed veteran Cam Fleming, who has started 20 regular season games and in the playoffs in four years with the New England Patriots.
Not only does Fleming give the Cowboys an upgrade at swing tackle over Chaz Green, as would any animate object, but he might even offer some flexibility in the starting lineup.
By the end of August, Dallas could determine that Fleming is one of their best five offensive linemen. They might elect to move La’el Collins back to left guard and start Fleming at right tackle.
Ideally, Dallas will find their new left guard in the draft or perhaps after more veterans get released around June 1st. This would give them a solid trio with Smith and Collins as starters and Fleming as the highly qualified backup.
But if the “Collins to guard, Fleming to start” scenario happens, Dallas may want another OT prospect ready to move up into that swing tackle role. As such, the priority on offensive tackles in this 2018 draft may shift as the event unfolds.
Guard will certainly have a higher priority than tackle on Thursday and Friday. But if the Cowboys don’t get a guard in those first two rounds, the gap may narrow. If they like an OT talent more than a guard at their third-round pick, perhaps they take the tackle and then look more at moving Collins again.
So as it stands, offensive tackle isn’t a major draft priority. But depending on what happens early in the draft, that could change quickly.
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