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2023 NFL draft grades: Mazi Smith grades all over the place after round one

A brief overview of the draft grades thus far for the Cowboys first-round pick.

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 03 Big 10 Championship - Michigan vs Purdue Photo by Jeffrey Brown/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

With the first round of this year’s draft now in the books, strong opinions across various platforms will ensue. There will certainly be some folks happy with this year’s first-round selection, and also those that will fall on the other side of the coin. Regardless of what side of the coin you fall on, it will not be known for at least the majority of that first contract whether or not the selection of Mazi Smith was a good one or not.

Across the national sports media landscape, those infamous grades will start to trickle on in well before Smith puts on his shoulder pads and has that star on his helmet. Interestingly enough, some of those grades and reactions might look quite similar to those that you personally may share. It also could be a total 180 as well, and that is okay too.

As you will see below, there are plenty of grades that have been handed out as the first round of the draft is still very fresh in the minds of those of us who follow the event annually. Let’s take a look at what the pundits are saying about the most recent first-rounder of your Dallas Cowboys.

The Athletic did not specifically provide a grade, but seemed to be indifferent about the selection

This is an interesting move as identity goes, comparing Mazi Smith’s play style to what we know of the typical Dan Quinn defense. Smith is a powerful player with long arms, and he plugs the interior better than any defensive tackle in this draft not named Jalen Carter. For his size and position, Smith’s athletic ability is above average, but not exceptional, and that’s where I wonder about what Quinn has planned for his new piece. Quinn’s defense has been about explosive speed for years now, but it’s possible that Dallas is looking to play a bit bigger on the interior to take the load off of its linebackers as run fitters — and Quinn may have different priorities now with an All-Pro pass rusher in his back pocket. If Smith can replicate his power as a run defender at the next level, it fills a hole that’s stood in the way of this team winning games in the postseason.

The Tennessean seems to be pretty high on this choice: A-

Instant grade: A-minus

Analysis: Smith will be able to play on all downs once he adapts to the pro game. He’s one of the best in the class in absorbing blocks without giving up ground in the run game, and he has some juice in pass rushing too.

Pete Prisco of CBS Sports loves this pick: A

“Smith is another one of my favorite players. He’s a power player who can hold up against the run, but I think he will be a better pass rusher than people expect. He just needs to keep his weight in check.”

The Game Haus isn’t a fan of the pick: C

Dallas reached on Smith and will only be able to use him against the run.

PFF doesn’t love the selection, but doesn’t dislike it either as they went with the “average” grade here.

It might not be an exciting pick, but for a team that has struggled to stop the run consistently recently, it makes a lot of sense. An impressive athlete for someone his size, Smith posted PFF grades of 75.0 or better in each of the past two seasons.

Fansided really liked this pick and gave the franchise an A- for their efforts on night one.

At 6-foot-3, 326 pounds, Smith is a legit nose tackle that can dominate in the middle of the field. Maybe the QB sneak the Eagles made famous last season won’t work as well if they are having to dig out Mazi Smith, who is a man of a football player.

Smith can push the pocket but he’s not going to get tons of sacks. Still, he had 88 tackles for the Wolverines and six tackles for loss.

The Dallas Cowboys have invested a bunch of draft resources in the offensive and defensive fronts over the past decade and this was another smart pick. I will drop the grade a little because Smith isn’t a pass rusher but for late in the first round, he’ll make a solid impact.

Pro Football Network based on who was still on the board at pick 26 was simply okay with the selection: B-

Mazi Smith is a good but inconsistent football player who has the opportunity to become one of the great interior defensive linemen in the league. Smith possesses pure, unadulterated power in his 320-pound frame but also the athleticism to move up and down the defensive line. The Cowboys play a lot of games on their defensive line, and he is a perfect candidate for that.

Additionally, if his recognition continues to progress, he will become one of the better run-defending nose tackles in the NFL. But he also has the explosiveness in his lower half to be a problem as a pass rusher as well.

Although he was one of my personal favorites throughout the draft process, with players like Nolan Smith and Joey Porter Jr. on the board, it’s impossible to give the pick an A.

SI.com feels this is a reach but likes his upside: B

Dallas added a beefy defensive tackle to an interior defensive line that was inconsistent at times last season. Smith, who was taken ahead of Bryan Bresee, is a productive run stopper and has upside as a pass rusher. The Cowboys might have reached here, but they needed depth on the defensive line in a division that features the mobile Jalen Hurts.

Draft Kings Nation notes that he is strictly a specialist which reflects in the grade: C+

The Cowboys might have taken Dalton Kincaid here if the Bills hadn’t scooped them. I would have liked that pick better. But Smith is a beast in the interior and should let Micah Parsons get free even more often. Smith’s size and strength pop on the field with his quickness, but he will likely end up specializing as a run stopper and not add a hole lot as a pass rusher.

Clutchpoints notes safe but not flashy: B-

This isn’t a sexy pick for the Cowboys. With a player many considered to be a top 10 talent in the draft like Nolan Smith still available, there’s a solid chance the front office will look back and grimace about what could have been. Nevertheless, Dallas landed a solid piece in Smith and filled possibly their greatest position of need at defensive tackle.

This was a safe pick for the Cowboys. Jerry Jones and the front office identified Dallas’ greatest position of need and picked the best player on the board at that position. They missed out on some serious star power by doing so, but gave the defense a chance to go from great to elite by helping shore up one of their biggest weaknesses.

Bleacher Report the potential is there, but the consistency is not: C-

When The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman named Michigan’s Mazi Smith as the top athletic standout entering this past collegiate season, the defensive tackle automatically turned into a highly regarded prospect, even though his play didn’t warrant elite status.

In Smith’s case, his performance hasn’t matched his potential. The 6’3”, 323-pound defender flashes his natural athleticism and power at the point of attack. He can be an overwhelming presence when his motor runs hot and he plays with proper leverage.

However, the inconsistencies seen on tape need to be eradicated. Smith can’t continue to play as high as he regularly does or his greatest assets won’t mean anything against professional blockers.

The idea of Smith is currently better than the reality.

How are you feeling the morning after this selection?

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