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Draft review: Will Jaylon Smith become one of Cowboys’ new ‘triplets,’ as Jerry Jones envisions?

2016 draft review

The Cowboys’ 2016 draft class could end up being one of the best in the franchise’s history. Dallas received immediate impact from several members of the nine-player class, from selections in the first round through the sixth round, while going 13-3 this season. This week, we’ll review the rookie years of the draftees — from Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott to Kavon Frazier and Rico Gathers — and take a look at where they can go from here.

Thursday’s installment examines the Cowboys’ much-scrutinized second-round selection, linebacker Jaylon Smith. You can find the previous installments here: Third round[1]; fourth round[2]; sixth round[3].

SECOND ROUND

Jaylon Smith

— 34th overall pick, second round, Notre Dame — Linebacker

2016 contributions: The Cowboys knew when they drafted Smith that it was unlikely he would play this season, despite owner Jerry Jones’ relentless optimism that Smith would find his way onto the field. It’s the risky kind of move Jones is known for. If Smith is able to heal from his severe knee injury and return to the form he displayed at Notre Dame, it could pay off big-time for Dallas and make the 2016 draft class a historic one.

Smith was projected as a top-five pick before he suffered the injury in Notre Dame’s bowl game. Still, the Cowboys didn’t get any immediate defensive help with the second-round pick. Paired with fourth-round pick Charles Tapper, a defensive end, being placed on injured reserve, two of Dallas’ top four picks didn’t play a down in 2016.

Outlook: Cowboys fans have anxiously awaited a breakthrough from Smith. They might have received it earlier this month when Smith said that the nerve in his leg has regenerated to the point where he thinks he can play if he were on the active roster. His ability to do that and if he can return to his previous level of play remains to be seen in 2017.

Smith certainly looks the part and spent the 2016 season as much as a member of the team as he could be as he rehabilitated his knee. Smith, who has worn a brace on his left ankle that extends into his shoe, said he’s running a 4.5-second 40-yard dash but there is still progress to be made on his motor function. Jones sees Smith as a star and integral part of the team moving forward.

“If I pictured some triplets right now,” Jones said recently, “it might be Jaylon, Dak [Prescott] and Zeke [Elliott]. I know I’m getting ahead of myself, but I’m not getting out over my skis. He’s the real deal.

I’m confident of that.”

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References

  1. ^ Third round (sportsday.dallasnews.com)
  2. ^ fourth round (sportsday.dallasnews.com)
  3. ^ sixth round (sportsday.dallasnews.com)

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