The 2023 NFL draft is over, and the Dallas Cowboys covered all bases according to what benefits the team the best. Of course, Cowboys Nation is never, ever satisfied when it comes to the NFL draft and expect each and every pick to be an instant All Pro.
Regardless of how you feel about the players the Dallas Cowboys drafted, they were able to draft a few players that feature a double bonus: they fulfill a position of need and they can flat out play. The tape does not lie and the results are in. As we say in my neck of the woods, these dudes can PLAYYY!
With three of their eight draft picks, Dallas selected Mazi Smith ( 1st round defensive tackle), Luke Schoonmaker (2nd round tight end), and Deuce Vaughn (6th running back). The Dallas Cowboys addressed three of their needs with dynamic player makers who are expected to more than backups because they each posses a different type of skillset that will the Cowboys over the top.
The Dallas Cowboys addressed all of their needs in the NFL draft, but there are three specific players who will have an immediate impact.
Last season the Dallas finished the regular season 12-5 for the second consecutive season and won a playoff game on the road for the first time since the 1992 season. But just like the season before, the Cowboys desire to advance beyond the second round of the playoffs ended in heartbreaking fashion to the San Francisco 49ers.
Although Dallas played the 49ers closely and kept their explosive offense in check, the 49ers loss highlighted a few issues that exposed Dallas’ defense in the regular season. Dallas’ defense was vulnerable against the run and the 49ers leaned on it heavily late in the game to secure a victory.
With the selection of Smith at nose tackle, Dallas immediately upgraded the position, but the drafting a tight end and running back are other areas Dallas needed to address. So, let us take a quick view of three players who could have an immediate as rookies.
Breaking down all of the Dallas Cowboys 2023 draft picks and applying grades in a very fair, yet untraditional kind of way ...
Mazi Smith: a massive run stopper
As I stated in my opening paragraph, Dallas’ fan base was torn on the selection of Smith in the first round. Some believed an offensive tackle or a player with a high-profile name would have made a better selection with the No. 26 pick.
But once the naysayers saw the athleticism and dominance of Smith as an interior lineman, they became believers. While at Michigan, Smith played in 30 games, recorded 39 solo tackles, 49 assisted tackles, 6.0 TFL (tackles for loss), 3 defended passes with one each of a forced fumble and fumble recovery.
Smith tossed 300 pound plus offensive lineman around like someone flying a kite on a windy day. Opposing offensive linemen stood no chance as he tore through offensive lines with ease. Watching Smith on tape is similar to watching the football version of “When Animals Attack”.
Quickness, strength, agility, and soundly built, Smith is built like a miniature bear that cannot be stopped. These are all of the traits of a true one-technique, known as a run stopper. Smith is listed as 323 pounds but has weighed as much as 345 while in college.
Smith’s presence will anchor a line of scrimmage on a defense that gave up 447 yards in consecutive games against the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers last season. Dallas’ defense allowed 5.45 per carry and is one of the reasons Dallas lost to the hapless Packers. To put this into perspective, the Packers, more of a passing team because of Aaron Rodgers, ran the ball 39 times and passed it only 14 times. My Gawd!
That won’t be an issue this season because not only will Smith be part of the rotation, but I can envision a scenario where he eventually starts and the incumbent nose tackle-Johnathan Hankins-plays as his backup. Hankins is a decent run stopper but he isn’t the talent of Smith.
Dallas hadn’t drafted a defensive tackle in the first round since 1991 when they drafted Russell Maryland out of Miami. Smith joins a defense that gave up 129 rushing yards a game, an Achilles Heel that needed addressing.
In a division with opponents who leans heavy on the run, Smith was the best solution that will benefit the team’s best linebacker, Micha Parsons. Now Parsons will be more lethal than ever. Hopefully, Smith will land the Dallas Cowboys a Super Bowl like Maryland did.
By Smith taking on double teams, it allows edge rushers DeMarucs Lawrence/Dorance the ability to set the edge a lot easier when they face an offensive team like the Philadelphia Eagles. Also, stopping the run on early downs puts offenses in a passing down situation, which obviously leads to more sacks, pressures, and quarterback hits.
If you are wondering about Smith’s sack totals, Smith had plenty of quarterback pressures in college.
The Dallas Cowboys front office executive Will McClay knows talent!