2. Mazi Smith, Nose Tackle
With their first pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, the Cowboys brought in Michigan nose tackle Mazi Smith. It wasn’t a splash pick that usually gets greeted with praise but it made sense. Dallas struggled against the run and Smith gave them a 337-pounder with the ability to anchor the middle of the line.
Even with that talent, nose tackles don’t typically go in the first round but Smith also boasted more athleticism than a man his size should. In the end, that might have hindered his growth as a rookie.
Smith spent much of his initial season in the NFL lining up as an attacking 3-tech and Dallas bizarly asked him to lose weight which took away some of his power. In this role, he finished with 13 tackles and a sack, which is a far cry from what he expected. He did at least record three tackles for a loss, showing he can be disruptive but overall, he was slowed down by playing out of position.
Looking ahead to 2024, he would benefit from moving back to a spot of comfort. It would also help to let him increase his playing weight since that's part of what made him a star with the Wolverines. The Cowboys have players who can take on the attacking role while allowing Smith to be the run-stuffer he’s meant to be. That might not be enough for him to quiet the doubters who didn’t like him being a first-round pick but it’s a solid step toward getting the most out of him.