(Editor's Note: With the offseason program in the rearview mirror, it's time to look ahead. As part of the preparation for training camp, this series will introduce 25 key players who are new to the Cowboys' roster, rookies and veterans alike. We'll begin with first-round pick Mazi Smith.)
How He Got Here: Being on the backend of the first round in this year's NFL Draft, the Cowboys had a multitude of options both going into the draft and when selection No. 26 reared around the corner. There were debates within the fanbase and in the war room about selecting an interior offensive lineman, a tight end or even an elite wide receiver to add to the depth of that room, but rush defense support jumped out as arguably the biggest need ahead of the draft which led to the selection of Michigan All-Big Ten defensive tackle Mazi Smith. The Cowboys have had a large amount of success in early draft picks as of late (although a fellow Michigan defensive lineman in Taco Charlton is an exception to that trend), and with Smith's high floor as a run defender up the middle, it's easy to see why the selection was made.
What's Next: Smith comes into Dallas with an expectation to provide immediate support with his 6-foot-3, 337-pound frame in the run game for a Cowboys defense that was 22nd in rushing yards allowed in 2022. His job in year one is simple: plug the middle. Anything beyond that is playing with house money – such as his expected pass-rush unlocking under Dan Quinn – and anything additional he can contribute will only help solidify his role as the starting defensive tackle with Johnathan Hankins still factored into the equation. Adding strength to the defensive line room will also play a key role in what Smith can contribute in year one as Cowboys veterans have already pointed to his power being some of the strongest seen on the defensive line in recent times.
Bet You Didn't Know: Mazi Smith came in at No. 1 on Bruce Feldman's College Football "Freaks List" on The Athletic in 2022 ahead of his senior season because of his combination of size and agility. Feldman called Smith "so rare, in fact, it's hard to find the right superlative to begin with." Other players in the list's top ten included Marvin Harrison Jr., Kelee Ringo and fellow first-round pick Calijah Kancey.
Quotable: "If you're not doubling me, then you don't respect what I do." - Mazi Smith during a midseason press conference in 2022 as a senior at Michigan.