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2023 Dallas Cowboys draft grades: The ‘rich get richer’ with ‘huge playmaker’

We take a second look at the grades for the Cowboys’ first-round pick.

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NFL: NFL Draft Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier today, our own Brandon Clements took a look at the first wave of draft grades that had come in right after the draft. Grades included came from such illustrious sites such as CBS Sports, PFF and, to name just a few.

So now we take a look at the second wave of grades that have popped up throughout the day.

Grading a draft a mere hours after after the last pick is generally frowned on by the more hardcore football fan who knows that drafts can’t really be graded until three to four years after the fact. Regardless, what the grades do - to some extent - is capture the national media reaction about a draft immediately after it is over. The first wave of grades was all over the place, any chance that has improved with a bit more time?

The Cowboys apparently had Smith ranked high, so they are certainly giving themselves good grades for the pick.

Below, we look at 11 additional sites that have submitted their evaluation of the Cowboys, and as one reviewer notes below, the pick may not be sexy, but could it be the key to win the NFC East?

TouchdownWire draws a comparison to Dontari Poe: B+

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. offers no specific grade, but Bucky Brooks is talking about a “huge playmaker” for the Cowboys.

Smith is an elite athlete with intriguing tools and disruptive potential. The unpolished diamond needs to become more consistent, but he can develop into a huge playmaker under Dan Quinn in Dallas.

FoxSports likes Smith as a potential Eagles beater. B+

It isn’t often that a 320-plus pounder can be described as “coiled-up,” but there is an explosiveness to Smith that is unusual for a player of his build, justifying a first-round selection for a player viewed as mostly a run-defender. This is the antithesis of a typical Jerry Jones pick. Rather than flash, Smith provides raw power and makes Dallas considerably stouter at the line of scrimmage — something necessary if the Cowboys are going to overtake Philadelphia in the NFC East.

David Helman adds:

As team owner and general manager Jerry Jones so eloquently stated when asked whether Smith was ranked 13th or 14th on their draft board: “Who gives a s***? We got him.”

If the pick itself didn’t send the message, that might. The Cowboys’ aim was to get bigger and more physical. Message received.

Sporting News: B

The Cowboys reached a little, but they did fill a direct need for a run-stuffing nose tackle who can start right away from them with his nice combination of power and quickness.

The Athletic also says the pick was a bit of a reach: B

Dallas had needs at tight end and defensive tackle, and the Cowboys chose the latter to fortify a below-average run defense. Smith (6-3, 323) put up 34 reps of 225 pounds and holds up physically, even against double teams. There are questions about consistent effort and his inability to finish at the quarterback, but those will be addressed.

The No. 1 athlete on Bruce Feldman’s 2022 Freaks List, Smith’s impact is felt way more than through his statistics. The past two seasons Smith put up only two sacks but generated 33 quarterback hurries, according to PFF. Smith fluctuated between playing over the center and shifting to a 3-technique, and he could play either with effectiveness.

Yahoo Sports: B

Smith isn’t the most dynamic defensive tackle, but he fills a big need for the Cowboys with a tough run stuffer in the middle of their defense. Smith has a little pass rush ability, but his main role will be shutting down the run.

SB Nation: The pick may not be sexy, but could it be the key to win the East? B

I think I like the idea of Mazi Smith more than the actual player right now. Smith is a big, powerful nose tackle who can become a true force on all three downs, but is so inconsistent with pad level and motor that picking him comes with an inherent risk. The Cowboys struggled to stop the run last year, and Smith can come in and do that while developing into a three down player. Nose tackle isn’t a sexy pick, but with the teams they have to play in the NFC, he’s a crucial piece. He’ll need some good coaching, however.

MassLive No grade, but a clear verdict: “A little off the radar, but underrated value.”

There were a bunch of flashy options for Dallas here. But instead, they improve the interior of their defense by adding a powerful lineman.

For The Win: “Rich getting richer”: B-

Smith is a “rich getting richer” pick for a defense that ranked second in overall DVOA last fall. While it was surprising to see Jerry Jones pass up on a tight end who looks a lot like Jason Witten (Michael Mayer), there’s no denying Smith’s value as a gap-shooting tackle up front. Nose tackle was a definite need with Johnathan Hankins and Quinton Bohanna currently penciled in as the team’s top two at the position.

Smith is raw, but he can learn the ropes on the fly for a team talented enough to thrive despite his growing pains up front — even if Bryan Bresee or Keeanu Benton would have been better suited for an immediate role in Dallas.

The Ringer also likes the upside of this pick and gives it a B-

The Cowboys continue to build in the trenches, adding a highly athletic block eater with this pick. The former Wolverines star brings high-end athletic traits and the potential to add to the team’s already-talented pass-rush group—but that’s a big projection, as Smith ended his college career with just half a sack in 35 career games. I see this as a bit of a reach for Dallas—Smith is my 47th-ranked player—but he can prove me wrong on that assessment if he can unlock his pass-rush skill set.

Todd Archer of ESPN doesn’t have a grade but provides this perspective:

What we’re hearing: The Cowboys’ strength defensively is their pass rush with Micah Parsons, DeMarcus Lawrence, Dorance Armstrong, Sam Williams and Dante Fowler Jr., but McCarthy believes the addition of Smith can make it even better in 2023 by impacting the run defense. “We have an elite pass-rush group,” he said, “and just the fact of the matter, when your run defensive improves, obviously you’ve got some longer down and distances with it, which tilts the field toward our pass rush.”

Now that you’ve had a full night and half a day to mull things over, how do you feel about the pick?

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