The Dallas Cowboys took a highly-touted linebacker with injury issues, but it wasn't Myles Jack of UCLA. It turned out to be Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith, as the Cowboys took Smith at No. 34 overall on Friday evening in the second round of the NFL Draft.
The second-round selection took many by surprise, as a plethora of defensive options fell out of the first round and Smith — a star at Notre Dame — is expected to miss the entire 2016 season after tearing his ACL and MCL in his left knee in the Fiesta Bowl.
But that didn't scare off the Cowboys, who may have had an edge in the research process as the team's orthopedic surgeon, Dan Cooper, performed Smith's procedure earlier this year. But it's unclear when the consensus All-American will play.
When healthy — and assuming he can reclaim his ability once he's completely rehabilitated the injury — Smith is a dynamic force at linebacker. He is the second player in history to win both the high school and college versions of the Butkus Award, given to the nation's top linebacker. He netted 113 tackles in 2015 and 112 tackles in 2014, capping a three-year career that saw him start as a true freshman.
At least one Web site had Smith going in the fifth or sixth round due the injury. Taking the injury out of the equation some had Smith as the No. 2 linebacker in the draft.
While Smith's future may be ahead of him, the Cowboys have clearly taken a player that will have little to no impact on the field in 2016.
Friday swelled with rumors and statements about what the Cowboys might do with their second round pick. Our Mike Fisher reported the Cowboys were more likely to trade down in the second round than trade up, amid reports that the Cowboys were exploring ways to move up a couple of spots to have the first pick in the second round.
In fact, in the minutes leading up to the second-round selection, Cowboys vice-president Stephen Jones could be seen on the Cowboys' draft room cam answering several different calls after Cleveland took Oklahoma State defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah with the first pick of the second round, a player many believed was one the Cowboys coveted.
The Tennessee Titans followed that by selecting Clemson defensive end Kevin Dodd.
Ogbah and Dodd were just two players that most considered to be valued as first-round talents that fell out of the first round and could have found themselves in Dallas. Other names included Alabama's A'Shawn Robinson and Jarran Reed, both defensive tackles; Alabama linebacker Reggie Ragland; Eastern Kentucky defensive end Noah Spence; Baylor defensive tackle Andrew Billings; and UCLA linebacker Myles Jack, who free-fell through the first round amid concerns about his knee and was selected one pick after Smith by Jacksonville.
The Cowboys went into Friday fresh off selecting Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott at No. 4 overall, a selection that gave the Cowboys' offense additional ammunition for 2016, but saw Dallas pass on Florida State defensive back Jalen Ramsey. The Cowboys are counting on Elliott's presence in the backfield to help reduce the turnovers and improve their goal-to-go offense, two areas the Cowboys were terrible at in 2015.
Elliott arrived in Dallas on Friday via private jet for his first in-person press conference at Valley Ranch, wearing a Cowboys blue suit and a Cowboys cap.
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