With the 26th pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, the Dallas Cowboys selected Michigan defensive tackle Mazi Smith. The Cowboys haven't picked a defensive tackle this high since back in the 90s. It’s a somewhat surprising pick and not one that many had predicted. The Cowboys do need help with their run defense, but they had other needs too.
Dontari Poe might be the physical and athletic player comparison for Smith, but more consistency from Smith is needed before he finds the Pro Bowl, as Poe did twice in his career. Smith’s blend of size and quickness is rare. He can punch and control a base block with relative ease. However, he struggles to match the initial movement of move blockers, which diminishes his effectiveness. He has space-eating potential but needs to become more consistent at taking on double teams and securing his gap. Smith’s size and testing could give his draft slotting some juice but he’s more of a Day 2 talent with exciting upside than a plug-and-play starter.
Smith is a tremendous run-stuffer in the middle of Michigan’s defense. He plays with outstanding physical strength at the point of attack to disrupt blocking concepts. His strength and physicality is an asset and allows him to reset the line of scrimmage. Smith is a heavy-handed puncher who can generate substantial knock-back power in the run game. He displays the ability to drive blockers into the backfield and create interior penetration. Smith is disruptive on downhill run attempts due to his ability to occupy multiple lanes and gaps. Michigan asks him to handle those two-gap assignments and potential double teams in the run game. Smith’s lateral agility is impressive for his size. He has the ability to work down the line of scrimmage in the zone run game as a play or backside defender. His pass-rush skill set is predicated on power and driving blockers into the lap of the quarterback. He has a powerful club move to knock his opponents off-balance, soften the rush angle, and pressure the quarterback. That surprising athleticism shows up on twists and stunts to free him up. Smith has a nice closing burst on the football. There are not many near 340-pound defensive linemen that can move the way Smith has shown, in pursuit.
- Round 1, pick 26 - DT Mazi Smith (Michigan)
- Round 2, pick 58
- Round 3, pick 90
- Round 4, pick 129
- Round 5, pick 169
- Round 6, pick 212
- Round 7, pick 244
OG: The Cowboys lost Connor McGovern, last year’s starter, and have yet to really replace him in the lineup. Tyler Smith could be the guy if they wanted, but they might prefer him at tackle, especially given Tyron Smith’s injury history, and Terence Steele’s injury recovery.
TE: Dalton Schultz has moved on. The team has some options in Jake Ferguson and Peyton Hendershot, but Dallas may want more firepower and a possible starter.
RB: Dallas begins life without Ezekiel Elliott (unless they re-sign him). With Tony Pollard as RB1, the Cowboys could use a complement, especially with Pollard on a one-year deal.
WR: The team brought in Brandin Cooks giving them a solid top three, but depth is an issue. It hurt them last year, they will want to reinforce the position for 2023.
LB: With Micah Parsons spending the majority of his time as a lineman, the depth here is really thin. They will definitely draft one at some point.
CB: You can never have enough, and Stephon Gilmore may be only here for a year. They need to make a move to fortify depth and look to the future.