The Cowboys are the NFC’s No. 1 seed and open the playoffs Sunday, and rookie quarterback Dak Prescott and rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott are among the team’s headliners.
The team’s second-round pick, linebacker Jaylon Smith, won’t make his NFL debut until next fall due to a knee injury he suffered in Jan. 2016. But Cowboys COO Stephen Jones told Albert Breer of MMQB.com that the team strongly believes Smith will make the team’s 2016 rookie class even better than it already is.
“I mean, this is a guy who may end up being — and you’re gonna shake your head when I say this — but he could end up being the best of all of [the rookies],” Jones said of Smith. “He is special both on and off the field.”
In addition to Elliott and Prescott, two other Cowboys rookies have become regular starters. Jones said he and assistant director of player personnel Will McClay have studied both their hits and misses from last year as they’ve ramped up preparations for the 2017 draft and admitted that they’ve asked themsleves, among other things, how they took defensive end Charles Tapper 34 picks before they took Prescott.
Their confidence is clearly high, and the Cowboys know they’re three wins from their 2016 draft class achieving immortality — even before we know whether Jones will be right about Smith.
“One of the best draft classes I still think about was the one with Bill [Parcells, in 2005], when we took DeMarcus Ware, Marcus Spears, and [Jay] Ratliff, and [Kevin] Burnett, [Chris] Canty, and [Marion] Barber,” Jones said. “I mean, that was an all-timer. Now, does this draft have a chance to challenge all the great drafts we’ve had? Of course it does.
“But I think it’s too early to give a grade to this class. They’re off to an amazing start, but there’s still a lot of work to be done.”