FRISCO, Texas — From 1982 to 2010, the Dallas Cowboys never took an offensive lineman in the first round of the draft. On Thursday, they selected their fourth first-round offensive lineman since 2011 when they took Tulsa’s Tyler Smith with the 24th overall pick.
Now the Cowboys can only hope he has the same sort of success as Tyron Smith (2011), Travis Frederick (2013) and Zack Martin (2014), who have been multi-time All-Pro and Pro Bowl selections in their careers.
The Cowboys had an offensive line need with the offseason release of right tackle La’el Collins, who joined the Cincinnati Bengals, and the loss of left guard Connor Williams in free agency to the Miami Dolphins.
Coach Mike McCarthy said Smith will start as a “left-sided player,” with the hope that he can potentially start at left guard as a rookie and one day be Tyron Smith’s successor at left tackle with Terence Steele taking over at right tackle.
“I played tackle in college but I’m willing to play wherever they put me,” said Smith, who was hosting a draft party a few miles from The Star in Frisco, Texas. “I’m going to take the coaching and I practice it all, so I’m comfortable wherever.”
Smith said his only interaction with the Cowboys before the draft was a private workout with assistant offensive line coach Jeff Blasko. He felt he would go late in the first round or top of the second round.
“Man, I was shocked,” he said. “A lot of my coaches said there was a great chance (but) I can’t say I even dialogued with the team that much throughout the process, but like it was a shock to me. I can’t even lie. I’m more than blessed to be here. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Owner and general manager Jerry Jones said Smith was the 16th-rated player on the Cowboys’ draft board and said a team that tried to make a trade up with the Cowboys informed them that Smith would have been its selection.
Jones said Smith was rated higher than guards Zion Johnson and Kenyon Green, who were linked to the Cowboys before the draft and went earlier in the first round.
“We were fortunate with the 24th pick to get the 16th player in the draft,” Jones said.
It’s a homecoming for Smith, who went to North Crowley High School outside of Fort Worth.
“It’s indescribable being able to finally come home after all this time to be able to play for America’s Team,” he said. “It’s a dream come true. I grew up watching this team.”
And he knows the offensive line’s success. Tyron Smith is an eight-time Pro Bowler and Martin has been selected seven times in eight seasons. Frederick was named to the Pro Bowl five times before retiring after the 2019 season.
“At the end of the day, the work is going to speak for itself,” Tyler Smith said. “Having these guys around me, being able to learn from those guys and play with those guys, that’s going to be huge for my development as a player. I feel like it’s nothing but a blessing in terms of what I can be.”
Smith started 23 of 25 games at Tulsa and was a second-team All-American Athletic Conference pick in 2022. Penalties were an issue last season. He had 16 (12 holding) and could replace Williams, who was the most penalized lineman in the NFL a year ago (15 total, 12 accepted).
McCarthy said he does not have any concern about the penalties.
“I’m an extremely physical player, extremely athletically gifted. The effort is always there,” Smith said. “The intensity and the chip on my shoulder I play with, I feel like that makes me the player I am. Also the intelligence I possess as a player, like moving from D-line to O-line, being able to keep that athleticism and physicality in check. My O-line play has been huge for me and trying to evolve the game because of the end of the day, O-line is an art form and I’m always looking forward to perfect it and get better.”