Former Dallas Cowboys RB Emmitt Smith watches the pregame workout from the stands before a...

Cowboys select former Tulsa OT Tyler Smith at No. 24 overall in NFL draft

FRISCO — With a single pick Thursday, the Cowboys gave two votes of confidence.

They believe in Tyler Smith, the Fort Worth native and former Tulsa offensive tackle whom they just drafted with the No. 24 overall selection. And they believe in their coaching staff’s ability to now develop him, closing the substantial gap between the player he is today and the player he can become.

The latter will determine his NFL success.

Smith, a North Crowley High graduate, plays with terrific physical temperament and possesses all the physical tools of a future Pro Bowler. He measured 6-4 and 324 pounds at the combine with 34-inch arms, 10 3/4-inch hands and an 83 1/8-inch wing span. He clocked 5.02 seconds in the 40-yard dash.

Smith is expected to be developed as the Cowboys’ short-term answer at left guard and potential long-term solution at offensive tackle. A team source indicated Thursday evening he may begin at left guard, giving him more of an opportunity to find the field as a rookie.

But Smith’s talents require more honing than is customary for a first-round pick.

His technique at Tulsa was tuna tartar-raw, his hand usage and pass set lacking refinement. In 12 games last season, he was called for 16 penalties, enough to have led the NFL. Twelve of them were for holding.

“It’s part of the process for sure,” Smith said. “There’s going to be time to take that coaching. I’m always on the grind. I’m always working to improve constantly, every day. I feel like working with guys like Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, it’s only going to get me better every day as well. I’m going to constantly be working and just accept the coaching to get to where I need to get to.”

Tyler Smith did not attend the NFL draft in Las Vegas.

Instead, his family gathered at an Airbnb in Frisco, not far from the Cowboys’ facility. He said that he was “shocked” Dallas took him, citing the limited dialogue between the sides during the predraft process. A key touchpoint came when assistant offensive line coach Jeff Blasko privately worked out Smith at Tulsa.

Clearly, it went well.

The Cowboys’ starting offensive line currently projects as left tackle Tyron Smith, Tyler Smith, center Tyler Biadasz, right guard Martin and right tackle Terence Steele.

Tyler Smith trained in Florida before the draft, not only preparing for the NFL combine but also cleaning up some of his technique blemishes from college. Offensive line coaches Joe Philbin and Blasko look to build on any strides made in recent months, working to mold him into someone who is ready to start in September and be a cornerstone on the offensive line for the years that follow.

He might be the youngest offensive lineman to be selected the entire draft; Smith turned 21 this month.

Smith is still fairly new to the craft, having switched from defensive line in high school.

“I want to be nasty and physical, and I want to dominate,” he said. “Moving over to O-line, I wanted to keep that part of my game present. I never want to give it up.”

Any team that drafted Smith knew it would be taking on a project. The Cowboys believe, with their coaching staff, this project can be a success.

Philbin is now on the clock.


Find more Cowboys coverage from The Dallas Morning News here.

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