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Cowboys Gambling the Right Way With LB Damone Clark

isn't the first rookie to join the Cowboys and have to spend most of his rookie year worrying about an . But with only a 5th-round pick on the line, Clark's recovery and future create a low-risk, high-reward scenario that shows Dallas may be getting smarter with its draft .

Earlier this year, Clark was diagnosed with a herniated disc in his neck which required fusion surgery. The procedure took place about a month before the 2022 and naturally affected Damone's draft stock.

How much did it hurt? Clark fell to Dallas at the 176th pick despite being one of the better LB prospects in the class. NFL.com had Damone ranked as their fifth-best LB overall and 63rd overall at any position. The injury likely knocked Clark out of being a Day 2 pick, perhaps even a late 2nd-rounder based on pure potential.

In times past the Cowboys might have been so enticed by Clark's talent that they'd have used their 4th or even a 3rd-round pick to secure his rights. But perhaps their last with that kind of gamble taught them a lesson.

Of course, I'm talking about . Back in 2016 Smith was one of the elite prospects of his class but suffered a devastating knee injury in his final college game. That dropped Jaylon from a potential top-five overall pick to where the Cowboys eventually scooped him up early in the 2nd Round.

To be clear, Smith's perceived talent and upside coming out of college were on another level from Clark's. The same .com analyst who projected Clark would be an “average starter” believed that Jaylon would eventually become a “perennial All-Pro.”

BREAKING: Dallas Cowboys Release LB Jaylon Smith
Former Cowboys LB Jaylon Smith

Unfortunately, Smith never validated that hype. He was never selected once to an All-Pro team and only went to a single . After a brief period of high-level play from 2018-2019, Jaylon quickly fell apart and was released by the team during the .

Six years earlier, Dallas took in the 2nd Round despite recovery from a torn ACL. While Lee did prove himself as one of the top linebackers in football when healthy, he could rarely stay on the field consistently enough to help the Cowboys prosper.

There are plenty of other modern examples of 2nd-round gambles that Dallas has taken on players with red flags for physical or other reasons; , , , and recently . But the lost opportunities when these guys don't work out, failing to add long-term starters and reliable contributors with your 2nd-round pick, has had a demonstrable effect on Dallas' roster through the years.

Unlike when whiffing on a 2nd-rounder, nobody is going to bat an eye if Damone Clark doesn't work out. Some years 5th-round picks don't even make the team without an injury issue; the perceived loss in this scenario is dramatically different.

This is a much safer move for the Cowboys. If Clark does eventually become a starter or even just a consistent rotation player, they've had a big win with the pick. Rather than eating the risk by taking Damone where his talent might've dictated, Dallas mitigated it by waiting and letting him fall.

The team has stated that they think Clark return in 2022 and contribute. Hopefully they won't need him to do much with , , and as their primary LB core for this season.

That's the beauty of this situation. Damone Clark is a 5th-round flyer with no heavy expectations. Anything he provides the team now or in the future is gravy; almost all profit with minimal investment.

Hopefully it's a sign of a new and safer draft philosophy for the Cowboys.

Jess Haynie
Jess Haynie
Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I'll be sure to respond!

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