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Cowboys news: First-round pick is ‘more traits and tools than a finished project’ but receiving high marks

The latest news on the Dallas Cowboys after the first round of the draft.

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NCAA Football: Big Ten Football Championship-Iowa vs Michigan Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Mazi Smith NFL Draft 2023: Scouting Report for Dallas Cowboys’ DL - Bleacher Report, BR Scouting Department

People love Smith’s traits, but aren’t sure if he is a plug-and-play starter

A lot of Smith’s lack of production is rooted in his get-off—or lack thereof—and being faster off of the ball will solve a lot of his problems as a run defender and pass-rusher. Michigan did have him two-gap a lot, which can hinder a defensive lineman’s initial quickness, but he was still slow off the ball, even when one-gapping or penetrating.

The Wolverine is more traits and tools than a finished project, but it’s going to be hard to find more defensive tackles with more potential than he has, meaning his best football could be ahead of him.

Schematically, Smith would be best as a 0- to 2i-technique in either odd or even fronts, and he could potentially play as a 3-technique if he adds some quickness down the line. It’s just a matter of how patient teams are willing to be with him as a team hoping for a defensive tackle to make an immediate impact might be looking elsewhere.


— Unique blend of size, strength and athletic ability. He carries his frame well, too, with little to no bad weight.

— Tons of power in his hands to stand up to offensive linemen at the point of attack. He can gain control of the block fairly easily, and his upper body strength will occasionally allow him to recover if he gets beat initially against the run.


— Late reaction to the snap and doesn’t have much initial quickness off the ball. This could become a big issue against scoop blocks and reaches at the next level.

— He’s slow to get his hands up as a run defender, which will expose his chest and can lead to his shoulders getting turned versus combo and scoop blocks.

2023 NFL Draft: How Michigan NT Mazi Smith fits with the Dallas Cowboys - PFF, John Owning

Just the type of athlete to thrive in a Quinn defense.

After years of largely ignoring the nose tackle position, the Dallas Cowboys finally made a significant investment between the A-gaps on their defense, selecting Michigan nose tackle Mazi Smith with the 26th overall pick.

Despite being listed north of 335 pounds, Smith is one of this draft class’ premier athletes, regardless of position, as evidenced by the fact that he ranked No. 1 on Bruce Feldman’s “College Football Freaks List” prior to the 2022 season.

Impressively, Smith plays with good pad level despite his size, enabling him to leverage his massive lower half to hold his ground at the point of attack and swallow up gaps against the run. The former four-star recruit pairs that lower-body strength with Deontay Wilder-esque power in his hands, as he routinely bludgeons offensive linemen on contact, putting himself in a great position to stack and shed blocks with ease against the run. Smith’s 11.6% run-stop rate ranked 15th among all interior defensive linemen in college football in 2022. Moreover, notice how Smith continually plays from a rooted and constant base, as it enables him to maximize his power input at the point of attack, which will be the catalyst for him occupying and defeating single and double teams in the NFL.

Many will lament Smith’s delayed get-off as a reason to deflate his draft stock, but that ignores the fact that Smith was playing a read-and-react role as a head-up defender on a majority of his snaps. Instead of firing out of the ball and penetrating his gap as a shaded defender, he was tasked with mirroring and controlling blocks to help Michigan fit all the necessary gaps while playing with light boxes. Put Smith in Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn’s scheme, and the Michigan defensive tackle’s athleticism will enable him to shine.

Cowboys BREAKING: DT Mazi Smith - ‘A Powerful Force!’ Drafted by Dallas in 1st Round - CowboysCountry, Mike Fisher

Many thought a tight end would be wearing a white, silver and blue ballcap by the end of the night.

FRISCO - Dallas Cowboys team sources on Thursday afternoon informed that they considered Mazi Smith, the Michigan defensive tackle, to be “steal-level’’ as a second-round pick, with Dallas selecting at No. 58. ... but also maybe worthy of being the guy at No. 26.

And instead of taking tight end Michael Mayer, who was still on the board, Mazi Smith is the pick.

Having a tight end who can “do it all” would be welcome for Dallas, and after losing Dalton Schultz via free agency to the Houston Texans, another addition to the room makes some sense. Mayer’s production for the Fighting Irish last season (809 receiving yards and nine touchdowns) shows he can be a viable option in the pass game for Dak Prescott.

But Dallas coordinator Dan Quinn’s unit will love to be getting a defensive tackle from Michigan who lives in the offensive backfield and is the best run defender in college football. Dallas is already armed with firepower most of the NFL would envy in Micah Parsons, DeMarcus Lawrence, Dorance Armstrong, Sam Williams and Dante Fowler. But a playmaker as a 1-tech defensive tackle? That would come in handy.

Dallas Cowboys select Mazi Smith with the 26th pick. Grade: B+ - Touchdown Wire, Doug Farrar

An early grade is in.

The Cowboys had a real need for an interior hole-plugger with penetrative potential in the middle of Dan Quinn’s defense, and Smith certainly fits that bill. Smith is more than just a big dude who soaks up blockers so that others can shine — at his best, he can wreck top offensive lines by himself, and he brings Dontari Poe to mind as a quick, nimble big man who should reinforce all the Cowboys want to do with their pass-rush, and add a lot against the run. Smith also can stunt well, and the Cowboys do a ton of that under Quinn. His new DC should also be able to bring a bit more juice to Smith’s game.

Height: 6′ 2¾” (35th percentile) Weight: 323 (87th)

Bench Press: 34 reps (88th)

Arm Length: 33¾” (70th)

Hand Size: 9¾” (37th)

‘Sick to my stomach’: Dallas Cowboys’ Micah Parsons has funny reaction to Eagles taking Jalen Carter - USA Today, Chris Bumbaca

The rivalry shows even on draft night.

Not only did Philadelphia Eagles general manger Howie Roseman make one of the most-lauded moves of the first round during the first round of the 2023 NFL draft by trading up one pick to take George defensive end Jalen Carter.

He also made a division rival “sick” on a live stream.

Dallas Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons, appearing on Bleacher Report’s coverage Thursday, reacted to the Eagles pick – originally slated to be 10th overall from the New Orleans Saints and swapped with the Chicago Bears once they came on the clock – with disgust.

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