While nothing in the NFL is guaranteed -- especially when it comes to recovery from a serious knee injury -- the possibility that Dallas could add a top five talent to its reborn defense in 2017 should be terrifying for the rest of the division.
Owner Jerry Jones, while often times too optimistic about second-round pick Jaylon Smith, doesn't have much doubt he'll be a contributor next season.
"I don't know about percentages," Jones said on 105.3 The Fan Friday, via The Dallas Morning News. "I would be very shocked and surprised if he's not a key part of our defense in 2017."
Smith, in case you forgot, suffered serious ACL and MCL damage around this time last year in a Fiesta Bowl loss to Ohio State. The team placed him on injured reserve this week.
Jones had maintained all season that there was a chance Smith could make it back onto the 53-man roster if the Cowboys made the playoffs. While Dallas (11-2) has already clinched their spot, the team effectively ended Smith's season instead. Jones insisted that Smith was not off schedule in his rehabilitation plan.
"We're very familiar with his situation, medically," Jones said. "He has shown inordinate, extraordinary aptitude and willingness in his rehab process."
It's a difficult thing to get excited about if you're a Cowboys fan. Look at the Jacksonville Jaguars who, in a similar situation, landed Myles Jack in the second round only to see him play 177 snaps so far in his rookie season. Sometimes it is easy for a rookie linebacker to vanish into a defense. Smith is a different type of player and if he is able to recapture a percentage of the athlete he was in college, he could instantly help transform a front seven that is seriously lacking in star power.
This represents one of the great advantages the Cowboys have with Jones: A general manager who is never going anywhere. He can take these types of chances in lieu of an immediate impact player and set the team up for success down the road if it pans out. Dallas looks like they'll be fine without Jaylon Smith -- but imagine if this pick yields the returns Jones is expecting.