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Draft Central | 2023

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Mazi Smith to Cowboys as 1st-Round Pick


The Cowboys just made their first pick of the 2023 NFL Draft, and it's one they believe will help them finally climb over their longstanding Super Bowl drought — with good reason

FRISCO, Texas — The moment everyone has been waiting for has finally arrived. The 2023 NFL Draft is officially underway and speculation swirling around which direction the Dallas Cowboys might go in Kansas City has been answered, and resoundingly.

The team began the evening as owners of seven selections, beginning with the 26th-overall pick, having given up a sixth-round pick and two fifth-round selections (all in 2023) in trade deals that landed them Johnathan Hankins, Stephon Gilmore and Brandin Cooks, respectively.

Having also re-signed headline in-house free agents Donovan Wilson and Leighton Vander Esch, additionally keeping Hankins in tow on a new deal, the Cowboys put themselves in position to truly stick to their draft board and aim for the best player available when on the clock.

Their first decision of NFL Draft weekend has been made, and here's who got the call:

Round 1, No. 26: Mazi Smith, DT, Michigan

Three things to know:

  • Four-star recruit out of East Kentwood High School (Michigan)
  • First-Team All-Big Ten (2022)
  • Ranked No. 1 on Bruce Feldman's "Freaks List"

Explosive power. Those the two words that come to mind when watching Mazi Smith play football and, to be honest, opposing offensive linemen probably wake up with difficulty breathing after going to war against the former Wolverine for four quarters of football. Smith is a big-bodied interior linemen who can be a wall in run defense but who can also, and effectively penetrate the backfield to put his hands on the quarterback.

Also not lacking for experience, Smith was a two-year starter at Michigan and, no stranger to playing on the big stage under pressure — hailing from a program led by former NFL coach Jim Harbaugh — who shrugs off double teams and single blockers are simply no match for his punch, let alone his countermoves.

The re-signing of Johnathan Hankins provided not only great insurance at nose tackle for the 2023 season against the possibility of not landing a player of the caliber of Smith, but now gives Smith a stout veteran to both learn from and to operate with rotationally on a defensive line that gives defensive coordinator Dan Quinn a definitive long-term solution at 1-tech.

It'll be a long day for offenses attempting to line up against a defensive front that now also features Smith, especially when factoring in the recent play of Osa Odighizuwa.

Bottom line: A dominant Cowboys defense just found a new top gear.

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