The Dallas Cowboys have been making high risk and high reward decisions in the NFL Draft. Some have turned out to be terrible but a few draft picks have panned out fine. Jaylon Smith appears to be the risky pick that is finally showing his potential.
Jaylon Smith was slated to be a top five pick before he sustained a devastating injury. He tore his ACL and MCL in the Fiesta Bowl against Ohio State University. ESPN’s Chris Mortenson reported that he required reconstructive surgery. Nevertheless, Dallas drafted Smith as the 34th pick in the 2016 NFL Draft.
The risk in taking Smith stemmed from his knee injury. Would he recover successfully? Did the Cowboys select the right player? Brian Kelly, head coach for Notre Dame University, believed that Jaylon’s talents had more upside than down.
In years past, Dallas drafted players who have not necessarily worked out. Randy Gregory, a physical freak at defensive end, was taken in the second round. Like Smith, he had 1st round potential. Gregory fall through the cracks because of the failed drug test during the scouting combine.
Unfortunately for the Cowboys, Gregory continued his trend of failing drug tests. He’s played only 14 games in two full seasons. TMZ reported that his friends were “deeply concerned” for his well-being. Recently, Gregory applied for reinstatement and the next time he can step onto the field is in question.
Unlike Gregory, Jaylon Smith is proving he is one step closer to playing at 100 percent. He recently stated that he feels more like himself. “Everything just feels better, from my emotion to my quickness to my explosiveness to my overall knowledge of the game.”
Another great sign that Smith is not wearing the ankle-foot orthosis (AFO) anymore. Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said he no longer notices a hitch in Smith's step. The movement is more fluid. Jason Garrett, head coach for the Cowboys also noticed changes in Smith. “Maybe more than anything else, I think he's moving more spontaneously now.”
Last season, Smith took opportunities by the horns when faced with the immense task of replacing Anthony Hitchens, arguably the best middle linebacker for Dallas. He managed to rack up 81 tackles, two forced fumbles, two pass deflections and one sack. Here is a summary of his 2017 season.
Jaylon showed flashes of his old self last year. During the offseason, he’s shown flashes of his new self. If his health remains strong, there is no doubt Smith will be a difference maker for the defense.