Why pick up an injured college graduate in the draft? Here’s why.

After sitting out his entire first season, Dallas Cowboys second-year linebacker Jaylon Smith has been very active in off-season. It wasn’t like that for most of the 2016-2017 season for Smith. He suffered a severe knee injury in the Fiesta Bowl in 2016, the final game of his college career. Prior to being injured, Smith was projected as a top five pick.

Defeating the odds, Smith managed to rehab back to full strength. He was a full participant in OTA’s as well as mandatory mini camp.

Stephen Jones took out some time back in May to explain why the Cowboys picked up Smith in the first place, “When you have a talent like this … Jaylon was one of those guys that was given to Jerry (Jones) and I before the bowl season that said, this is a guy, you can watch the Notre Dame bowl game and he’s a guy we might really want to pick with the pick that we ended up taking Zeke with. And then of course the terrible accident in the bowl game, the injury, happens.

“But we made a conscious decision that hey, he’s probably going to redshirt, and then we’re going to do the right thing by him because we think he’s such a unique and special talent both on and off the field that he’s going to be a huge difference maker for this franchise for years to come. We’re going to take each day day-by-day. We’re going to do everything that’s in the best interest of Jaylon first and then proceed from there.”

And that’s exactly what they’ve done. Throughout the last year, every question about Smith’s return has been met with answers of “one day at a time.” But what made the Cowboys so positive Smith would return? Jones says to find out, you have to talk to Jaylon face to face to really get it.

“Everybody always asks, why are y’all so optimistic? And I go, when you talk to Jaylon you’ll find out why we’re so optimistic. We support him. He’s determined, as are we, that he’s going to make a big difference in the opening game for the Dallas Cowboys this year.”

Smith isn’t unlike other players. The Dallas Cowboys have a history of putting the player first. At times, that gamble has paid off, but not every time. With training camp less than two weeks away, the ‘Boys will know sooner than later if patience has paid off.

Lauren Scullion is a lifelong Cowboys fan, secret Packers fan, Dallas Cowboys/ NFL writer, social media guru and NFC East know-it-all.