2. Johnathan Hankins
This might not be conclusive, but according to Ourlads, Mazi Smith is the starting nose tackle on the Cowboys' depth chart. Dallas drafted Smith in the first round hoping he can improve a Dallas run defense that desperately needs help in the middle. That might not be good news for Johnathan Hankins.
Dallas acquired Hankins by trading a sixth-round pick to the Las Vegas Raiders last season. To show loyalty, they resigned him to a one-year deal in March. His arrival immediately helped Dallas slow down rushing attacks, but he missed the rest of the regular season after suffering a pectoral strain against the Houston Texans in Week 14.
Without Hankins, the Cowboys gave up over 100 yards rushing in three of their last four regular season games. He returned for the playoffs and helped the defense limit the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to just 52 yards but the 49ers rushed for 113 the next week.
Hankins was thought to now be the primary run-stuffer in the middle, but that role could not easily belong to Smith. Having two good nose tackles is not a bad thing, but who is to say Hankins becomes more of an afterthought. Dallas also has other solid defensive tackles in Osa Odighizuwa and Neville Gallimore. While both are expected to compete for the other defensive tackle job, Quinn could look to rotate them to the nose at times as well.
Hankins has logged many miles as he enters his 12th NFL season this fall. Defensive lineman can age quickly and with his injury history, it remains to be seen how much longer Hankins will stay upright. He is a veteran presence Dallas needs on the defensive line, but Smith could easily eclipse him as a starter this year.