Re-Grading the Cowboys' 2023 Draft Class After Rookie Seasons

It's that time of the year when we can finally re-grade the Dallas Cowboy's 2023 draft class. How did last year's crop of rookies fare?
Re-grading the Dallas Cowboys' 2023 NFL Draft class.
Re-grading the Dallas Cowboys' 2023 NFL Draft class. / Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
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Dallas Cowboys fans have been experiencing a quiet offseason, but that should all change next week. After all, the 2024 NFL Draft begins on Thursday, April 25, opening the door for Jerry Jones & Co. to finally add some much-needed help if they want to stay atop an increasingly competitive NFC East.

While this time of the year is typically used to look ahead to the future, it can also be a period for reflection. It's been nearly a year now that the Cowboys added eight rookies in Kansas City, making it the perfect time to reflect on those players' first-year performances.

With that in mind, here's a re-grade of the Cowboys' 2023 NFL rookie class.

DL Mazi Smith (R1, Pick 26): D

When the Cowboys announced they were taking Mazi Smith with the 26th overall pick, fans hoped that he was going to be a premiere run-stopper for years to come. He showed plenty of potential during his time at Michigan but was still seen as somewhat of a project that might take a few years to fully develop.

Unfortunately, Smith missed the majority of expectations as a rookie. For starters, he didn't see as much playing time as first-round picks tend to see, playing only 304 defensive snaps (28%) across 17 games with only three starts. His playing time fluctuated throughout the year, reaching as high as 47% (Week 14) and as low as 7% (Wild Card Round).

Unsurprisingly, Smith's stat line left much to be desired as he only registered nine solo tackles and one sack. His 31.8 run block grade highlights his struggles against the rush as it was the seventh-worst grade among interior defenders. It didn't help that a big part of his shortcomings had to do with the Cowboys forcing him to lose a lot of weight and putting him in unfamiliar positions.

Smith is an athletic freak with the tools to be a real player, but the Cowboys must focus on his strengths rather than asking him to be someone he's not. Until Mike McCarthy's staff puts the ex-Wolverine in a position to succeed, it's hard to have faith in Smith's outlook.