Last Thursday, the Cowboys used their first-round draft pick on Tulsa offensive lineman Tyler Smith. The reception was tepid at best. Few analysts pegged the North Crowley product as worthy of going off the board at No. 24, which seemingly pointed to this being a case of Dallas opting to fill an urgent roster need over gravitating toward one of the more talented players on its board. Which, as our Jeff Cavanaugh wrote yesterday, is defensible: while the hit rate on draft “reaches” isn’t ideal, some of them inevitably hit and you could do worse than betting on a young, ascending player with every tool in the shed.
That’s where the discourse figured to stop until Smith begins playing actual games four months from now, because what else is there to say until then? That is, until the Cowboys brass took the podium at an ensuing press conference that night to discuss the pick, and Jerry Jones assured everyone that Smith was no reach. In fact, they had him ranked above Kenyon Green and Zion Johnson, the consensus top two candidates to fill Dallas’ vacant left guard spot, both of whom were poached well before Dallas got on the clock at No. 24.
Given the circumstances, this tracked a whole lot like bluster and/or major “im not owned” energy, which probably informs what happened next:
Yes, that is the Cowboys’ owner and general manager inviting anyone interested to take a gander at the top of the team’s draft board despite there being six rounds of picks still to go and several names still available for selection.
Or was it? Jones is a man who is, let’s say, fond of misdirection, and try as the internet might, no one over the weekend could produce a decipherable image of what was in his hand. Finally, some progress got made yesterday via WFAA’s Mike Leslie, who posted this still-grainy, color-coded image on Twitter.
The headings—name, school, height, weight, and so forth—seemed to indicate that Jones wasn’t bluffing, but the names themselves were still too difficult to make out.
Then the The Athletic’s Jon Machota had a breakthrough: using a whole bunch of photo enhancement, he was able to make out 34 of the 39 names on the list. You should read Jon’s piece for the full list, but the relevant takeaway is that Jones, incredibly enough, was telling the truth: Smith checked in at No. 16 on their list—four spots ahead of Green and six ahead of Johnson.
You can question plenty of other things, of course, from the evaluations themselves to what other professional sports franchise would ever intentionally leak the sum total of months of work for funsies. Not for the first time, my main line of inquiry centers on whether this team will ever use a premium pick on a safety again after ranking Georgia’s Lewis Cine 13th yet showing zero inclination to take him 11 spots after they believed he ought to go.
Either way, give Jones this: he wasn’t lying—this time.