More will be asked of Jaylon Smith entering his third year, but how much stock should the Dallas Cowboys be investing in their former second round pick?
Before linebacker Jaylon Smith‘s devastating knee injury in what would be his final college game, he was believed to be one of the best, and in some opinions, the best player coming out of the 2016 NFL draft.
It was evident what the Cowboys thought of him as they spent a second round pick on a player that some thought may never play again.
The fact that Smith was able to play at all in just his second year removed from surgery is nothing short of a medical miracle. While Smith struggled early in the year, he showed steady improvement as the year progressed.
Not only was he able to suit up and contribute last season, he played in all 16 games while finishing fourth on the team with 81 total tackles in 2017.
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While we have to admire his rehab and the fact that he is even able to play, the Cowboys are now at the point of having to look beyond just a feel good story. Smith will now be entering his third season, only second on the field, and must be a significant contributor to a Cowboys defense who is lacking a strong linebacking group.
Smith was at his best last season while playing alongside veterans Sean Lee and Anthony Hitchens. With Hitchens now gone and a major void left behind at middle linebacker, Smith is the best/only option available currently on the roster.
Cowboys Executive VP Stephen Jones stated last week that Smith has taken “major steps” forward in his continued rehab this offseason citing feedback he has received from the Cowboys training staff as well as veteran linebacker Sean Lee.
Dallas appears committed to Smith for the long term, but we will get a better read on how they truly feel regarding Smith come this year’s draft. The Cowboys have been linked to linebackers such as Alabama’s Rashaan Evans and Boise State’s Leighton Vander Esch as potential first round selections.
If the Dallas Cowboys pull the trigger on a linebacker such as Evans or Vander Esch in the first round, are their intentions to groom them at middle linebacker and possibly move Jaylon Smith to strong side linebacker? Or if they decide to go in another direction in the first round, does it show they have total confidence in Smith’s ability to fill the void left by Anthony Hitchens?