The Dallas Cowboys selected Tyron Smith out of USC in the first round of the 2011 NFL draft. The Cowboys desperately needed some youth along their aged offensive line. Smith is the top rated tackle despite having played right tackle during his collegiate career. For the Cowboys to get the top rated tackle at the 9th overall pick is a steal considering the first tackle in the draft was selected no lower than 4th since 2006. It is a match made in heaven, right?
Maybe. The Cowboys obviously valued Smith above that of the other first round tackles, Anthony Costanzo, Gabe Carimi, James Carpenter, Derrek Sherrod, and Nate Solder. Smith will not simply be compared to his fellow tackles, but also to the potential player the Cowboys could have received if they had traded down to the 16th spot in the draft (with a 2nd round pick as compensation). Afterall, the only offensive lineman taken between spots 9 and 16 was Mike Pouncey, a center/guard. It is possible Smith would have still been available. However, the Patriots were sitting at 17 and did pick a tackle. If they had a preference for Smith, it would not have been outside the realm of reason to believe they would have traded up into the 15th spot. Consequently, the Cowboys may have been wise to take Smith at 9 rather than gamble against Belichick and the Patriots.
The NFL can often be like grade school. If you are going to cheat off someone’s test, you look at the smart kid’s paper – not your buddy who played X-box with you in lieu of studying. In this regard, the Patriots and Colts have had the most prolonged success in recent memory and both selected a tackle to protect their franchise quarterbacks. While we cannot be certain whether either team had Smith ahead of their respective picks, we can presume that there wasn’t that substantial of a drop off in talent level.
We all know that football players are not all created equal. Unfortunately we will not know whether Smith’s actual value was substantially higher than Solder or Costanzo until 2014.