2023 NFL Draft: Dallas Cowboys Reach for Position of Need with DT Mazi Smith

It has been a very long offseason full of rumors and smoke surrounding the Dallas Cowboys and their first pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. With tight ends, wide receivers, running backs, cornerbacks, offensive linemen, and edge rushers all having been linked to this 26th overall pick from Dallas, the pick ends up being defensive tackle Mazi Smith from Michigan.

Looking at the current Dallas depth chart, it is pretty clear that defensive tackle is a weak spot for a Dan Quinn defense that was as solid as any unit in the NFL last season. in 2022, they pieced together an interior defensive line with the likes of Osa Odighizuwa, Neville Gallimore, Johnathan Hankins, and Quinton Bohanna, still managing a high level of play as a defense. However, if they want to take the next step to be an elite defense, they need to get better on the interior. While the need is there, I do not believe that Smith should have been the pick at 26 in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft.

The Dallas Cowboys reach to address position of need with defensive tackle Mazi Smith at No. 26 overall in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft.

The first thing that most Dallas fans will point out is the lack of statistical production from Smith throughout his time in Ann Arbor. In his two seasons as a full-time player for the Wolverines, he had just a half a sack and six tackles for loss. Surely Quinn and the Cowboys’ defensive coaching staff will expect Smith to get into the backfield a bit more as he continues his career at the next level.

While the lack of backfield production is certainly disappointing, Smith played his role in the Michigan defense well. As the true center anchor of the defense, Smith ate up blockers and allowed his linebackers to roam around and make plays, while still battling his way to bring down the ball carrier. He racked up 85 tackles in those two years, setting a career-high as a senior in 2023 with 48.

In 2022, the Cowboys ranked in the bottom 12 in the league in rushing yards allowed, so adding a player like Smith that can plug up the middle and get his hands on rushers does make sense. However, I don’t think drafting a run-stuffer at this point in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft makes much sense for Dallas.

Taking a look at the players that were still on the board when the Cowboys made this selection, they had a ton of talent available. They could have added tight end Michael Mayer to help fill the shoes of Dalton Schultz who left in free agency. An elite pass rusher in Nolan Smith was still on the board, ultimately falling to the division rival Philadelphia Eagles. They could have added a starting guard with TCU’s Steve Avila or Florida’s O’Cyrus Torrence. A great complement to Trevon Diggs at outside corner was still on the board with Joey Porter Jr., who has incredible size and NFL family pedigree.

I look forward to seeing how Jerry Jones, Will McClay, Mike McCarthy, Dan Quinn, and the rest of the Cowboys’ brain trust proceed in this 2023 NFL Draft and round out the class. If they are able to address some other needs and steal some talented players at other spots in the draft, maybe this selection will make more sense to me. While I admit it fills a huge hole that the Cowboys had on their defensive front, I believe they could have added a more talented player at that point in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft.

Micah Parsons is clearly excited about the addition: