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Jaylon Smith: Still a Good Draft Choice

Jess Haynie



Cowboys Draft - The Dallas Cowboys Select Jaylon Smith at #34

The Cowboys' selection of linebacker Jaylon Smith in last April's draft has been met with skepticism from the very beginning. It has only increased throughout the offseason.

Dallas spent their second-round pick, the 34th overall in the 2016 draft, on the former Notre Dame standout. They picked Smith despite the knowledge that he was unlikely to play this season after a major knee injury in the Fighting Irish' bowl game on New Year's Day.

Cowboys Headlines - Cowboys Linebackers Interested in Jaylon Smith's Knee 3The Cowboys saw Smith as the fifth-best talent in the class. They also had inside information on his surgery as their own team doctor performed the surgery. Even if it meant getting nothing in 2016, Dallas saw the pick as a chance to add a dynamic talent for the next ten years.

Many onlookers have disagreed. Some feel that the pick would have been better used on a player who could help right away. Others point to the team's bad history with risky second-round picks and feel they will only get burned again.

Let's look at the objections to the Jaylon Smith and see how much water they hold.

The Defense Needs Help Now

There is no refuting the basic element of this argument. Obviously, at any pick, you want to add talent that helps right away.

But immediate help is just one part of the draft value equation. Long-term potential is a key consideration at any pick. It has to be if you want to be known as a team that consistently handles the draft well.

When the 34th pick came along, Dallas had just watched defensive ends Emmanuel Ogbah and Kevin Dodd get taken by other teams. Would the Cowboys have drafted one of them? Smith was still the fifth-best talent on their board. It's hard to say.

Cowboys Headlines - Jaylon Smith: Still a Good Draft ChoiceMany have pointed to another defensive end, Noah Spence, as the better choice. Spence went five picks later to Tampa Bay. His stock was mainly hurt by a history of drug and alcohol offenses while in college, but Spence is also undersized for a 4-3 defensive end.

Risk is risk, regardless of the type. Spence's character and size are just as much a cause for concern as Jaylon Smith's knee. Once you get into the second round, everything starts looking like 50/50 propositions.

For some this comes down to the simple debate of "Jaylon Smith versus Myles Jack." By the time the draft came along, Jack's knee issues had been downgraded in terms of his long-term future. He would be able to play now, and perhaps for a few seasons, but there was significant concern about his ability to have a long career.

Smith is the opposite; immediate absence but better long-term prospects. As already mentioned, Dallas' own team doctor performed the surgery. They had as good an idea of Smith's present and future potential as any NFL team. All health issues aside, they also saw Smith as the better talent of the two players.

The hindsight argument on "Smith versus Jack" will be a future article on this site and many others. I don't think there's any right or wrong in these situations; only lucky and unlucky.

Cowboys Blog - Rolando McClain Sets Cowboys Defense Back With SuspensionThey "Knew" Rolando McClain Was in Trouble

A few weeks ago, the Cowboys front office said they were fully aware of McClain's personal struggles when they made the decision to draft Jaylon Smith. This only exacerbated the complaints a bout the Smith pick for some and generated some new ones.

Saying that you knew McClain was having problems is like saying you knew the sun would rise. He's a troubled man. Dallas has treated him like a volatile mercenary for two years, trying to benefit from his skill while keeping the relationship temporary and easily dissolved.

I think the comment about knowing McClain was in trouble was the lesser of evils for public relations. I don't believe they expected him to be this far gone; likely unable to contribute to the team in 2016 or perhaps ever again.

The alternative was to say that you had no idea how bad things have gotten for McClain. That would've been admitting to a lack of awareness or involvement with your players. Which really makes the organization look worse?

Remember, the Cowboys knew they had Anthony Hitchens. He played well as the middle linebacker in 2014. Last year was a bit of a sophomore slump, but I think they still saw Hitchens as a solid insurance policy for 2016. All reports from training camp so far suggest that they were right.

2nd Round History

Cowboys Blog - Randy Gregory, I am Disappointed. Plain and Simple 2Some fans think that Dallas' track record with second round picks was reason not to gamble on Jaylon Smith.

Nothing about Martellus Bennett, Sean Lee, Bruce Carter, Gavin Escobar, DeMarcus Lawrence, or Randy Gregory has anything to do with the nerve in Smith's knee. It will recover or not based on medical science and not any sort of history or jinxes.

The argument that Dallas has gambled too much with second-round picks is overblown. The second round generally offers you two types of players:

  • First-round talents with risk factors or short-term obstacles
  • Low risk, medium reward talents

You likely remember names like Kevin Burnett, Anthony Fasano, or Al Johnson. They were former second-round picks who had solid years in Dallas and with other teams. None of them were ever stars or impact players, though. They are typically what you get when you try to avoid risks.

It's still too early to say if Gregory and Lawrence were bad picks. Carter had moments of brilliance but couldn't ever master the fundamentals of his position. Bennett had maturity issues but ultimately was a victim of Jason Witten's longevity and endurance. Since leaving Dallas he's proven to be one of the better tight ends in the league. The same could happen with Escobar.

Cowboys Headlines - 2016 Is To Jaylon Smith What 2014 Was To Sean Lee 1

AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez

Obviously, the clearest comparison to Jaylon Smith is Sean Lee.  Although he didn't have the same level of perceived risk with his health issues, Lee also wasn't projected as the same potential talent that Smith was. Still, you're talking about that "risk vs. reward" debate that comes up with every player.

If Smith's recovery goes as projected, he and Lee could form the most dynamic linebacker duo in the NFL. Despite all of his missed games, Lee still leads all NFL linebackers in interceptions since entering the league. Smith has that same play-making potential.

Jaylon Smith will or won't get there based on his own rehabilitation efforts and basic good or bad luck. If he does, it could be the best second-round pick Dallas had made since Larry Allen.

That's worth some risk.

~ ~ ~

The Cowboys had a time when they drafted for immediate need and not a more long-term perspective. It was ugliest period of their draft history and the ramifications were felt for over a decade. Many of the fans who are complaining about the Jaylon Smith pick are likely the same who lambasted Jerry Jones for his previous draft record.

You can't have it both ways.

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!

  • Steve

    Disagree. Could've taken Myles Jack who was supposedly ranked by Cowboys just one spot below Smith but is going to play this year, at middle linebacker. They told us the nerve had grown 4inches and was expected to grow 1inch/month. It's been a few months and the nerve hasn't grown any more. I have accepted that Smith will never see the field, but continuing to say this was a good pick is nonsense. We should have Ramsey and Jack, prolly still could've got Smith later. Not impressed with Elliott one bit, but pray he dominates.

    • Jess Haynie

      Well, I'm with you Ramsey over Elliott. I wrote extensively about it during draft season. As far as Smith vs. Jack, I'd much rather have the guy with the better long-term outlook. There is heavy concern that Jack won't play more than a couple of years. I'd rather gamble on Smith in that scenario, especially if you think he's a little more talented.

Player News

Free Agent WR Allen Hurns Plans to Sign With Cowboys

Brian Martin



Free Agent WR Allen Hurns Plans to Sign With Cowboys

It looks as if the Dallas Cowboys will be adding yet another wide receiver through free agency. According to sources, Allen Hurns plans on signing with the Cowboys.

Josina Anderson on Twitter

WR Allen Hurns just told me, "I'm going to sign with Dallas." #Cowboys

This is a move that seemed unlikely after the Cowboys signed Deonte Thompson a few days ago, but I know a lot of Cowboys Nation will be excited about this transaction.

Allen Hurns joins a receiver group that features Dez Bryant, Cole Beasley, Terrance Williams, Ryan Switzer, Noah Brown, and the recently added Deonte Thompson.

While this move is exciting, it does create more confusion for the Cowboys and their wide receivers. It's difficult to imagine all of these WRs sticking to the roster, which means there will be some tough decisions that need to be made.

What will the Cowboys do with Dez Bryant?

Will Cole Beasley be cut or traded?

Are the Cowboys comfortable absorbing Terrance Williams' cap hit if traded or released?

Will this keep the Cowboys from drafting a WR early?

All of these questions and more will have to be answered eventually. But, one thing is for sure, things are definitely about to get interesting.

Of course, there is a bonus here for the Dallas Cowboys. Since Allen Hurns was released by the Jacksonville Jaguars, he doesn't count against the Cowboys compensatory picks next season.

Please stay tuned and we will continue to keep you updated on contract details and any other news involving Allen Hurns as it becomes available.

What do you think about the Allen Hurns signing?

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Player News

Cowboys Sign Free Agent WR Deonte Thompson

Jess Haynie



Deonte Thompson

The Dallas Cowboys added some speed to their receiver corps today by signing free agent Deonte Thompson. He played for both the Chicago Bears and Buffalo Bills last season.

Thompson, who turned 29 last month, went undrafted in 2012. He had a quiet to start to his career as a reserve and practice squad guy in Baltimore and Chicago, but finally got a chance to shine with seven starts last year for the Bills. He 27 catches for 430 yards and one touchdown in just 11 games.

Ian Rapoport on Twitter

The #Cowboys signed WR Deonte Thompson, per agent @davidcanter. He gets 1-year, $2.5M with a $1M signing bonus.

Deonte brings some much-needed speed to the Cowboys offense. He ran a 4.31 40-yard dash as a rookie, and while he's 29 now he still poses more of a vertical threat than the current Dallas receivers.

Given the low salary in this deal, Thompson may not be seen as much than a replacement for Brice Butler near the bottom of Dallas' depth chart. We also have to wait and see what happens with the draft and other moves this offseason to know where he fits into the bigger picture.

For now, though, Cowboys fans can take a little comfort in knowing the front office hasn't completely fallen asleep at the wheel.

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Player News

Dallas Cowboys Sign LB Joe Thomas to 2 Year Deal

Sean Martin



Dallas Cowboys Sign LB Joe Thomas to 2 Year Deal

At long last, the Dallas Cowboys have their first free agent addition of this offseason. Having lost starters Jonathan Cooper and Anthony Hitchens at left guard and linebacker respectively, the team has added depth at LB with Joe Thomas signing a two-year deal.

The 2018 season will actually mark Joe Thomas' second stint with the Dallas Cowboys, as he was signed to their practice squad in 2015. The team that signed Thomas out of South Carolina State following the 2014 draft, the Green Bay Packers, added Thomas back to their active roster for the 2015 season.

Jon Machota on Twitter

Source: Cowboys have agreed to a 2-year deal with free agent LB Joe Thomas. He visited the Cowboys today. Thomas has played in 42 games over the last three seasons with the Packers. He had a career-high 70 tackles in 2016.

Thomas has spent the last three seasons starting eight games for the Packers, recording 70 tackles and an interception in 2016.

A contingency plan of Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith carrying the Cowboys for 16 games at LB requires adequate depth, which is exactly what the Cowboys are typically in the market for come free agency. Waiting longer than usual to make their first splash, the Cowboys absolutely need an addition like Thomas to perform better than last year's FA class.

Used in sub packages by the Packers while also playing special teams - where the Cowboys have lost core players in Keith Smith and Kyle Wilber - Thomas will have a great chance to impress two new Dallas coaches in Ben Bloom and Keith O'Quinn.

Tell us what you think about "Dallas Cowboys Sign LB Joe Thomas to 2 Year Deal" in the comments below. You can also email me at, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

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