The Dallas Cowboys got contributions up and down their roster this season. While veterans acquired via free agency and trades helped the team win big games, the roster is largely home grown.
The 2022 and 2021 draft classes in particular were catalysts behind the Cowboys regular season success. They feature the likes of Micah Parsons, Tyler Smith, DaRon Bland, Osa Odighizuwa and Jake Ferguson.
You know what would have helped the Cowboys achieve even more success? If they got something out of their 2023 draft class. Nobody's writing the class off after year one, but between Mazi Smith, Luke Schoonmaker, DeMarvion Overshown (torn ACL), Asim Richards and Deuce Vaughn, the class was essentially a zero this season.
There's reason to be excited about what Overshown can bring to the linebacker room, which got exposed late in the year and in the playoffs. Fans were equally excited about what Mazi Smith could bring to the run defense as a first-round nose tackle.
Smith took his lumps like any rookie, but his lack of development over the course of the season was befuddling. In reality, though, it's not that surprising considering the Cowboys converted him to a three-tech tackle, as PFF's John Owning pointed out after the loss to the Packers.
Cowboys wasted Mazi Smith's rookie year with bizarre weight loss request
It's OK to be down on Smith, but understand he was asked to drop some 30 pounds and execute a role he never played at Michigan.
Who was the mastermind behind this idea? It's duly noted the Cowboys drafted Smith with an eye on the future. D-tackles rarely hit the ground running in year one, but this idea stunted Smith's development to a point where his rookie season was essentially wasted. That is development malpractice, folks.
The craziest part is that the origin of Smith's conversion to an undersized DT is nowhere to be found, at least in writing. It's been mentioned on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas, but zero team reporters -- including Michael Gehlkens (DMN), Jon Machotas (The Athletic) and Todd Archers (ESPN) of the world -- haven't said a peep.
That only adds to the mystery. Smith displayed freakish strength and athleticism at Michigan and leading up to the 2023 draft.
Is it possible Smith's freakish traits tricked the Cowboys into thinking he'd make a seamless transition into a three-tech tackle? On the flip side, though, why would Dallas even try to get creative? Smith was disruptive at Michigan in the Big Ten playing at 320-plus pounds. Given the sheer physicality of the conference it stands to reason he would've progressed pretty quickly at the pro level.
Instead, he finished his rookie year with 13 tackles, one sack, and three tackles for loss despite appearing in all 17 games. Furthermore, Smith's 31.8 run defense grade was the lowest on the team, per Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
It's a wasted year and we're not sure what the future holds for Smith now that he's being asked to play a completely different role to the one he had in college.