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Draft Central | 2023

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McCarthy on Mazi Smith Pick: 'It's Christmas'


There's no shortage of excitement flying around Cowboys HQ with the selection and swift arrival of Mazi Smith, selected in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft — a card they held close

FRISCO, Texas — It might only be April, but the Dallas Cowboys feel as if Santa Claus decided to get his rounds going early this year, and landed his sleigh on the rooftop of the team's headquarters in North Texas when they found themselves able to select defensive tackle Mazi Smith with the 26th-overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.

When asked to describe his feeling about the pick, head coach Mike McCarthy was all smiles, especially considering all of the subterfuge surrounding the team possibly selecting a tight end first paying off with Smith, who they were eyeing all along, falling to No. 26.

"It's like Christmas," McCarthy said from Smith's first official press conference. "When you look at all the work that goes into it, going back to his [Official] 30 visit, and just what a great fit he is for us … I just want him to be himself. He is a great fit for us."

It's a sentiment echoed loudly by the front office.

"We tell these young men, like Mazi, you're here for a reason [on an Official 30 visit]," said Executive Vice President and Director of Player Personnel Stephen Jones. "We have a sincere interest in you. As you know, most of our picks have come out of that group of 30. He's very comfortable and you can just see his energy.

"You can see it in his face that he loves ball, he loves everything about it. All the coaches that met with him agree that he'd be a great fit in this organization, and for him to fall down there to us and for us to have the opportunity to pick him, I feel like Mike. I feel like it's Christmas."

The organization did consider trading down and their likely partner would've been the 31st-overall pick, owned by the Kansas City Chiefs, but discussions revealed who the Chiefs were looking to select if the trade was struck.

It was Mazi Smith and, as such, there was no deal.

The Cowboys were all-in on the First-Team All-Big-Ten run-stopper who also registered as No. 1 on Bruce Feldman's "Freak List" that measures and compares athletic attributes of a prospect.

For his part, Smith was basically levitating all day on Friday and probably could've flown to Dallas without an airplane. He joins a defensive unit that was stellar on all fronts except the one he's tasked with upgrading, alongside Johnathan Hankins, and that's the run defense.

"I know they have a bunch of dogs," said Smith. "I know that they value what they have up front. I know that they have stars at every level of the defense. I know that they brought me in to stop the run, and to be a big, dominant physical presence on the inside. It's my job to be [exactly] that."

Smith's power is legendary at Michigan, and might eventually be for the Cowboys as well, with rightful comparisons to Hall of Fame offensive lineman Larry Allen flying about. While no one is earnestly comparing the two as players, Smith's strength is just as alien in nature and is likely rivaled on the roster only by the team's first-round pick from one year ago: Tyler Smith.

The two Smiths met on Friday and you can bet it'll be an explosive, albeit friendly, competition between the two — both in the weight room and especially when they line up against each other in training camp.

"Iron sharpens iron," said McCarthy, wearing a grin that barely contained his enthusiasm in envisioning the coming practice battles. "Oxnard is gonna be humming."

The building in Frisco already is, but with excitement over what Smith can be for McCarthy and defensive coordinator Dan Quinn going forward.

"I've been wanting to explode all day, but I know I gotta save it for football," said Smith, starving to get work, which begins in two weeks at rookie minicamp. "Yea just ready [to hit somebody]."

Santa should probably head out of here, and quickly, now that his work is done.

At least until Day 2 gets underway, anyway.

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