Advertisement

Tyler Smithisms: 2 Cowboys draft prospects with left-side versatility

The Cowboys love versatility on their roster. Players with position flex allow Dallas to mix and match the best starting lineup possible. It also helps them adapt to injuries midseason and stay nimble in their offseason roster construction.

Versatility is largely what drove them to select Tyler Smith in the first round of the 2022 NFL draft. And versatility may also be what drives them to pick someone like Troy Fautanu or Jordan Morgan in 2024.

Flashing back to 2022, the Cowboys were already looking for the heir to Tyron Smith at left tackle. Smith’s mounting injuries made him an unreliable piece on the offensive line. Over the two previous seasons the veteran LT only played a combined 13 games, making LT high on Dallas’ priority list.

While the Cowboys didn’t want to rely on Tyron Smith to stay healthy, they also weren’t willing to give up on the former All-Pro either. The versatility offered by Tyler Smith allowed them to straddle the fence and adjust based on Tyron Smith’s availability. As luck would have it, Tyron Smith significantly tore his hamstring two weeks before Week 1, forcing the rookie to move outside and assume the role of Chief Blindside Protector.

One year later, it was back inside for Tyler Smith and back to LT for Tyron Smith. The versatility paid off for both years Tyler Smith has been in the NFL, and figures to continue to pay dividends in 2024, given the unsettled nature of the current OL lineup.

Fautanu, 6-foot-4, 317-pounds, hails from Washington’s pass-heavy offense. A 29-game starter at LT, Fautanu brings high-end athleticism, solid strength, and explosiveness off the snap. Scouts are split as to what his best position will be but most also agree he can play anywhere on the line effectively. His 34.5-inch arms and excellent agility keep him in the LT conversation. It’s very similar to how many scouts viewed Tyler Smith as a prospect in 2022.

Dane Brugler sees him primarily as a guard. He doesn’t just project Fautanu as a good prospect there, but he projects him as the top guard prospect in the 2024 NFL draft. Rated No. 9 overall on his big board, Fautanu may not even make it to the Cowboys at 24.

His real value will likely come down to where teams think they can play the somewhat aged 23-year-old. LT is considered a premium position so it would likely boost his value considerably if that’s where a team projects him. The fewer the teams who think he can play outside the better for Dallas’ chances.

Morgan, a career LT at Arizona, comes into the draft with a similar profile in many respects. Considered by many to be a better guard prospect than tackle prospect, Morgan brings with him a wide range of outcomes which may not immediately be apparent.

Brugler, who projects Morgan as the No. 2 guard in this class, still feels as if Morgan can survive at LT in the pros. Likening him to Matthew Bergeron, Brugler makes quite the connection for Cowboys fans. The Cowboys were extremely interested in Bergeron last draft cycle and openly debated picking him instead of Mazi Smith in the first round. It’s clear the Cowboys have a “type” and both Fautanu and Morgan seem to fit that type quite well.

Neither have the power of Smith as prospects (no one really does) but they come with the position flex to play both inside and outside making either of them a versatile piece on the Cowboys ever-changing OL landscape.

When Dallas drafted Tyler Smith, they were hoping he’d be the eventual heir to Tyron Smith at LT, but they were comforted he’d, at the very least, be a dominant left guard. Fautanu and Morgan project similarly. They can hope one of them can play LT at the NFL level but can feel comforted both also project as a high-end guards if all else fails.

The Cowboys would be extremely lucky if Fautanu fell to them in in the first round. Consensus draft boards have him at No. 18 so he’d have to fall six spots. And Morgan probably isn’t the best target for Dallas at Pick 24 since a number of higher rated players project to be on the board at that time. But in a trade down scenario, Morgan can offer strong value and the position flex the Cowboys crave on their OL.

In the past two consecutive drafts, the Cowboys have been attracted to offensive linemen who have inside-outside versatility. Will 2024 be Year 3?

Story originally appeared on Cowboys Wire