By SCHUYLER DIXON, AP Sports Writer
The Dallas Cowboys grabbed some help for their defense, even though Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith likely won’t contribute until 2017 because of a major knee injury.
The Cowboys took Smith with the 34th overall pick in the second round Friday night.
The first-team AP All-American tore two ligaments in his left knee in his final college game against Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl. He skipped his final season of eligibility despite the injury.
The Cowboys went defense with their first pick Friday night after staying away from their biggest needs with the fourth overall pick on opening night and getting Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott.
Dallas can afford to give Smith a year to heal with middle linebacker Rolando McClain returning for a second season and oft-injured Sean Lee coming off his first Pro Bowl season in 2015.
And the Cowboys are familiar with Smith’s injury because Dr. Dan Cooper, one of their team physicians, performed the reconstructive surgery in January.
Smith also damaged a nerve when he landed awkwardly after being pushed by Ohio State’s Taylor Decker. That’s the injury that had NFL teams most concerned, wondering whether he would be the same athlete he was before the injury.
The Cowboys stayed away from defensive ends even though they have questions about their pass rush. Both of their second-round picks from the previous two drafts, defensive ends DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory, are facing four-game suspensions to start the season.
Noah Spence, a highly regarded end out of Eastern Kentucky, was among those available. But was kicked off the team at Ohio State because of drug-related issues. Spence went to Tampa Bay with the 39th pick.