The Dallas Cowboys shocked the world tonight.
Sitting at 34th overall with players such as Noah Spence, Andrew Billings, and Jonathan Bullard all still on the board, the Cowboys instead drafted Notre Dame Linebacker Jaylon Smith, who comes with more Day 1 questions than answers.
Every draft scout seems to have the same sentiment on Smith. If he is healthy, and the nerve in his knee wakes up, he will be a great player in this league. Injuries aside, he very well might have been a top 5 pick in this draft, maybe even to the Cowboys at #4. Every report says Smith is an absolutely fantastic player and person.
The problem is, the injuries do exist. We don’t know if his knee will ever be the same. There have been reports of teams who give Jaylon Smith a 20% chance to ever play football again, and if those odds hold true the Cowboys might have just wasted a great opportunity to add an immediate impact player.
But, there are also reports that teams believe Smith will be just fine in time. Reports which say he will have a long and illustrious NFL career as a generational type Linebacker. That career just wont start in 2016.
Cowboys source on Jaylon Smith’s knee-nerve injury: “He’s going to have a 10-year NFL career. We just don’t know when it starts.
While this pick shocked Cowboys fans and writers alike, past draft evidence tells us we should’ve expected something crazy. The Cowboys have shown a tendency to go way off the beaten path during the 2nd round, especially when they target a defensive player.
They love to take risks in the 2nd round.
To be honest, they seem to treat the 2nd round how conventional wisdom tells us teams should treat the 4th or 5th round. Their strategy is simple; find a player who you love, a player with a first round grade who has slipped through the cracks due to some type of risk factor, and then take that very risk. The proof is in the pudding.
This strategy is not new, either. In 2010 the Cowboys took a giant risk on Linebacker Sean Lee, who fell into the 2nd round due to an ACL tear. Lee was reportedly a top 15 player on their board, so when they had the chance to draft him with the 55th overall selection, they jumped on it. Overall, the Lee selection has paid off, but injuries have plagued his entire career so far.
In 2011 they took a similar risk on Linebacker Bruce Carter. Carter had slipped into the 2nd round due to a torn ACL as well, but the Cowboys believed that he was a first round talent. So, they took him. They evaluated the risk and they took the risk even though there were several questions about his health.
Sensing a trend? You should be. But there’s even more.
2012 featured a different type of risk with their 2nd round selection, as they decided to trade it away for a chance to move up for Morris Claiborne. If you’re keeping track at home, that makes the Cowboys 1-for-3 on these 2nd round risks.
In 2014, the Cowboys traded up from 47th to 34th overall to select DeMarcus Lawrence. Once again, they thought Lawrence was a first round talent, so they took the necessary risk to make him a Cowboy.
The risks moved from injuries to substance abuse during the next draft, where the Cowboys decided to take another risk. This time on Randy Gregory, another player with a ton of talent, who Dallas risked a 2nd rounder on. Unfortunately, Gregory’s risk hasn’t exactly paid off for the team yet. There is still time for Gregory to turn things around, however.
The Cowboys seem to view the 2nd round much differently than everyone else does. They find players with exceptional talent, and make the moves to bring them to Dallas – even if it means taking some big risks on injuries or drug suspensions.
Jaylon Smith has a chance to be a special player for the Cowboys. The odds are he is not going to play a snap of football in 2016, but he will have that ability to sort of redshirt in Dallas. Rolando McClain is on a one year deal, and if Smith can get right by then, that might be all Rolando gets in Dallas. Or, the Cowboys can bring Smith along gradually with a leader like Sean Lee paving the way.
Selecting Jaylon Smith at this point is the ultimate boom or bust pick, but the Cowboys seem to believe the risk is worth the reward. History seems to tell us the Cowboys 2nd round risks haven’t worked out for the best, but Jaylon Smith is a much more special player than almost any of those other players who were selected.
It is impossible to say anything with Smith’s health is for sure at this point, but the Cowboys once again shocked the world during the 2nd round.