(Editor's Note: Over the next month, the staff of DallasCowboys.com is looking to answer the 20 biggest questions facing the team heading into the 2023 season. Today, the staff writers continue the series with a debate on the first-round pick Mazi Smith.)
11) What Impact Will Mazi Smith Make in 2023?
Nick Eatman: This is one where I just have to trust the scouting department and the Cowboys' overall draft process. Go back and look at what they've done in the first round lately. Sure, you remember Taco Charlton, who happened to play at Michigan like Mazi, but in the last decade or so, that's really the only first-rounder that hasn't panned out, along with Mo Claiborne. This team drafts well in the first round – high or low. So I think knowing that, they feel like Mazi can help right now and I think he adds some brute strength to the middle that this team has needed for years.
Mickey Spagnola: Not to be too cute here, but a "huge" one. Just his presence on the field to start, taking up space will be a plus. So, for starters this wide body, and not sloppy wide, but really strong will help hold down the middle of the line against the run. Should have seen what it looked like during one offseason practices when Mazi and Johnathan Hankins were lined up together at defensive tackle. That's a wide load. Plus, DC Dan Quinn thinks when lined up properly, not just to stop the run, that Mazi has some natural agility to present a threat rushing the quarterback. Can't wait to see him in pads.
Nick Harris: More often than not, first round picks make large contributions in year one and I don't expect Mazi Smith to be an exception to that trend. The run game will be Smith's most immediate impact as it'll be his earliest opportunity to cement himself as the starter going into week one. The defensive staff also has optimism in his pass rush ability, and if they can unlock that out of him as early as this season, then the Cowboys will have not only unlocked a huge impact in the defensive interior, but they also will have unlocked arguably the most complete defensive line group in the league.
Kyle Youmans: Last season, the only interior defensive lineman to take over 700 defensive snaps was Osa Odighizuwa. The second closest to that total was Neville Gallimore who graded out as the 120th defensive lineman of 127 on Pro Football Focus. So, it shouldn't take very long for Mazi Smith to make a significant impact solely based off his potential usage this season. Early expectations indicate that he'll serve as a two-down run stuffer at nose tackle with a possible pass-rush element. That alone is more potential than Dallas has had at the one-technique in years. I fully expect this to be a lethal front seven with Smith added in the fold.