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Draft Central | 2023

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Eatman: Don't Ignore History in Judging Mazi Pick


FRISCO, Texas – It's like clockwork. The NFL Draft finally gets here and every football fan suddenly becomes a draft "expert."

Honestly, I don't know if I've ever really seen one truly exist. Sure, there are people that study the draft religiously, and a few of them are on our staff, working long, hard hours on the Draft Show.

But to be an expert at anything, you have to know all sides of the situation. Not just the players, but the team needs and most importantly, the team's views on the players.

It's an impossible game to predict, but yet every year, opinions are formed on the players the Cowboys didn't take or should've taken.

Right now, it seems like the results are a bit mixed on Mazi Smith, the defensive tackle from Michigan, taken No. 26 overall. Personally, I've met him when he came in for a 30 visit and he seemed like a good dude, but that has never translated to a good football player.

I can't tell you how good he's going to be. But then again, who can? And as it stands right now, no one knows. Not even the teams that drafted the players.

But here's what I do know. The Cowboys are pretty damn good at drafting first-round players.

How far you want to go back? One year? Two? How about 13 years?

Let's go back to 2010, which gives us the last 12 first-round picks for the Cowboys.

  • 2010 – The Cowboys took Dez Bryant. He's the franchise leader in touchdown catches with 73, made three Pro Bowls and an All-Pro selection.
  • 2011 – Tyron Smith was the pick in one of the best NFL Drafts ever for first-round talent. Still, Smith was a great pick, making eight Pro Bowls and four All-Pro teams, becoming one of the greatest tackles in team history.
  • 2012 – The Cowboys traded up from 14 to No. 6 to get Morris Claiborne. We thought it was going to be a great pick, but it wasn't. Claiborne never panned out and it's one of the reasons the Cowboys haven't really traded up in the first round since then.
  • 2013 – The next year, the Cowboys actually went the other way, moving from No. 18 to No. 32 to get Travis Frederick. Five Pro Bowls and two All-Pro selections later, Frederick turned out to be a great pick.
  • 2014 – They kept the O-line picks coming with Zack Martin. The best part of the draft wasn't who they took but who they didn't, as the War Room had to convince Jerry Jones not to go for Johnny Manziel. With eight Pro Bowls and eight All-Pros, Martin is arguably the greatest guard in team history, other than Larry Allen.
  • 2015 – Late in the first round, the Cowboys took Byron Jones. They didn't know if he would play cornerback or safety, and he ended up playing both. Jones did make an All-Pro team and a Pro Bowl spot in 2018.
  • 2016 – Debate the pick if you want for being in the Top 5, but Ezekiel Elliott is one of the three best running backs in Cowboys history. He earned three Pro Bowls and two All-Pro nods with three rushing titles.
  • 2017 – The Cowboys missed on Taco Charlton. What makes it worse is that T.J. Watt was available. Just a big miss on a guy that only played two seasons.
  • 2018 – Linebacker is the need and the Cowboys grabbed Leighton Vander Esch, who made the Pro Bowl and All-Pro as a rookie. Injuries have plagued him throughout his career but he's entering his sixth year and has been a highly-productive player when healthy.
  • 2019 – No first-round pick because they traded for Amari Cooper, who of course, made the Pro Bowl in his first two seasons with the team.
  • 2020 – The Cowboys lucked out and got CeeDee Lamb when they weren't even trying to get a wide receiver. But that was an example of being "true to the board" and it's panned out well. Lamb is coming off his best season, catching 107 passes, the third-most in franchise history and he's made two Pro Bowls.
  • 2021 – The Cowboys picked Micah Parsons with the 12th pick. No, he wasn't their first choice but they got him. Do that draft over again and Parsons might be the No. 1 overall pick. Two seasons and two All-Pro selections.
  • 2022 – Tyler Smith was not a fan-favorite among the fans either. All he did was play left guard, then left tackle, then a little guard and tackle and sometimes in the same game. He was an All-Rookie team performer and should've received some legit consideration for Offensive Rookie of the Year. No he hasn't made a Pro Bowl yet, but I'm assuming he will.
  • 2023 – Mazi Smith? We will soon find out. But he's a big, strong run-stopping defensive tackle that joins a team that needed to be bigger, stronger and stop the run better.

I seriously hope the reason fans are not high on him isn't because he went to Michigan, where Taco Charlton went? If so, ever heard of Jacob Rogers? He was a second-round offensive tackle from USC in 2004 and he never could stay healthy or figure out to be a swing tackle. Good thing the Cowboys didn't get scared away of Tyron Smith because they were both USC Trojans seven years apart.

Or if you were one of those who wanted to draft Michael Mayer out of Notre Dame? Even when the Cowboys took Anthony Fasano back in 2008?

My point is that there is no real comparison at all to drafting players from the same colleges. That's a lazy take and it's almost never accurate.

So let's see how this one plays out. But before you get all crazy about the guys the Cowboys didn't take or could've taken – just remember their track record in the first round.

It's worth the benefit of the doubt.

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