Analyzing the Cowboys 2023 draft class and their possible roles

2023 NFL Draft - Rounds 2-3
2023 NFL Draft - Rounds 2-3 / David Eulitt/GettyImages
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The Dallas Cowboys 2023 draft class can be summed up in one word: size

The offseason is one of the more interesting parts of the NFL season, with the draft being the highlight. The Dallas Cowboys were looking to fill in some spots on their depth chart after some off-season departures. It's safe to say they did that and some.

We won't know if these decisions truly pan out until a couple of years from now, but let's take a look at what we know. That is who the prospect is, some strengths and weaknesses, their fit on the team, and the draft grade.

An average draft position (ADP) based on, PFF, CBS and ESPN mock drafts includes the difference between mocked and actual draft positions. There will also be the lowest ranking and highest ranking for each prospect.

Analyzing the Cowboys 2023 draft class

1st Round (26th) Mazi Smith, NT, Michigan ADP: 44th (-18)

The Cowboys have struggled severely defending the run for what seems like an eternity. That's largely due to the front office not seriously investing in the interior defensive line. Instead, they signed washed-up veterans at the tail end of their careers or failed to develop day-two talent.

Osa Odighizuwa, the 2021 third-rounder, panned out but is more of a pass-rusher than a lock-down run defender. With the team's first-round pick, they drafted someone both defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and star defender Micah Parsons wanted in nose tackle, Mazi Smith.

Why is Parsons so excited, you ask? That's because Smith is the best run-defending defensive lineman in this year's draft class with an underrated pass rush. He's a big guy on the inside, standing six feet and three inches tall, carrying 323 pounds.

At Michigan, the Grand Rapids native was crucial to the dominant Wolverines' defence playing in the national semi-finals over the past two seasons. In those 28 games, he accumulated 85 tackles, with five for a loss and 0.5 sacks.

PLUS: Mazi Smith will anchor down and close the gaps which have killed the Cowboys for years. His freakish strength and agility enable him to generate pressure from the inside, forcing the quarterback to escape the pocket. He will command two blockers on run plays, leaving more room for his teammates.

He makes a big first push, followed by more power as he controls the opposing lineman. His agility, combined with his strength, gives him frequent visits into the backfield.

MINUS: He only has 0.5 sacks in his entire college career because he can't close in on the quarterback. He gets pressure but needs to do a better job finishing the play when pass-rushing if he is to develop into an elite player.

ROLE: He is a definite starter on running downs, with the potential to see snaps on passing downs if he develops. He will take over for Neville Gallimore and dip into Quinton Bohanna's goal-line role. Smith won't be a full-time starter until at least next season with the expiring contracts of Gallimore and Jonathan Hankins.

Overall, I like the pick. It fills a desperate need with a high-potential player at a premium position. It's not a sexy one, but it will pay dividends. While I would have loved to see a trade down for Smith's selection, the Kansas City Chiefs trying to trade up for him meant there was no waiting around.

ESPN's Matt Miller mocked Smith to be drafted 58th, while PFF mocked him to be drafted 33rd. It's a bit of a reach, but considering the positional value, need, and his run-defending, this was a good spot to select.