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2011 NFL Draft Picks: Dallas Cowboys Play It Safe With Tyron Smith

In the days leading up to the NFL draft, we were led to believe that the Cowboys would be satisfied with any of three offensive linemen - Tyron Smith, Nate Solder or Anthony Castonzo. After their selection of Smith at No. 9, Jerry Jones and the Cowboys sang a different tune. Hudson Houck called Smith "much better" than the other tackles in the draft and said that he'd given him one of his highest draft grades ever. Jones said that the team knew Smith was their guy after they went to his pro day and saw him carry his added weight well. 

Smith ranked fifth on the Cowboys' overall board and seventh on Rick Gosselin's Top 100, which he compiles after discussions with NFL clubs. Gosselin was among those (including SB Nation) to correctly project Smith to the Cowboys on draft day.

Smith has already been labeled a starter by Jones and Houck, and Jones went so far Thursday night as to admit that the club will likely release veteran Marc Colombo to clear a spot and to save about $2.5 million.

"We don't have to make that decision tonight," Jones said. "But I think anytime that you make a pick of that stature or that high, he is going to play. And that was a big part of the decision, he can play and will play, and if he plays he will have to take somebody's place."

Photographs by jamesbrandon, jdtornow, phlezk, flygraphix, mcdlttx, tomasland, and literalbarrage used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.