Mazi Smith, DT, Michigan
1) a very unusual and unexpected event or situation:
“the teacher says the accident was a total freak” · “a freak storm”
2) a person, animal, or plant with an unusual physical abnormality:
“a few freaks have been discovered, one amazing cat tipping the scales at no less than 43 lbs” · “a freak red cabbage with side shoots coming from the leaves”
3) INFORMAL: Mazi Smith, Defensive Tackle from Michigan
It’s hard to know where to begin with a player like Mazi. It’s even harder to find the words to describe him. “Amazing” and “incredible” get thrown around sports so much they’ve lost their meaning. Astonishing? Astounding? Shocking? Even these don’t seem to do him justice. I think the only person to accurately label such a unicorn of a player was Bruce Feldman when he put the 4-Star recruit out of Grand Rapids at the top of his Freaks list in 2022. That’s right. Mazi is the most athletic player in the country at 6 foot 3 and 337 pounds and it isn’t even particularly close.
Feldman goes on to say:
It’s hard to find the right superlative to begin with. But let’s start with this: Smith does 22 reps on the bench press, but that’s with 325 (not 225). He close-grip benched 550 pounds. He vertical-jumps 33 inches. He broad-jumped 9-4 1/2. Smith, who had 37 tackles last season, has clocked a 4.41 shuttle time, which would’ve tied the best by any defensive tackle at this year’s NFL Scouting Combine, and it would’ve been better than any defensive tackle weighing 310 pounds or more in the past decade.”
There are no words except “freak.” Smith has all the raw tools to make a coaching staff salivate, which is exactly why he’s the right pick for the Saints at 29. This is a team that’s lost a lot of defensive starters and has been significantly weakened in the trenches. The Saints need someone next to Khalen Saunders and someone with the elite traits that Smith has would be perfect. We’ve already established he’s a physical specimen, and luckily for NOLA he can convert that athleticism to play on the field.
He’s one of the best in country at stopping the run. Smith has violent hands and knows where to place them, good leverage, and combining that with his athleticism makes him a tall order to block even with double teams, and nearly impossible to block 1-on-1. He sheds blocks, has a nose for where the ball is and has the lateral and straight line speed to chase ball carriers down. Smith can do it all and has the versatility to do it as a nose tackle or 4-3 DT. Smith has juice on pass rushing downs but it is something a coaching staff will work on developing more, but that’s to be expected with a prospect in this range. For now expect him to be an early down contributor.
– Two-time All-Big Ten selection (consensus first team, 2022; honorable mention, coaches and media, 2021)
– Two-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree (2020-21)
– Four-time letterwinner (2019-20-21-22)
– Named Michigan’s Richard Katcher Award winner (2021) and Defensive Player of the Year (2022)
Unfortunately, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. Smith was recently sentenced to 12 months probation for a misdemeanor weapons charge. I don’t know how that’ll affect his draft stock but it’s something to keep in mind. There’s also the fact that his stat sheet isn’t pretty, especially when you compare it to some past defensive linemen that have come out of Michigan.
88 tackles, 6 TFL, 0.5 sacks, and a forced fumble. In 2022 he logged 23 pressures, 17 QB hurries and 5 QB hits.
It doesn’t scream world beater but Smith’s impact goes beyond the stat sheet. He might not log every stat in a game, but he’ll pull bodies to him and free up his team mates.
Finally, there has been concern with his arm length but to be completely honest I think that won’t be a concern with NFL coaching and his natural athleticism to compensate.
In closing, the Saints will be getting a freakish athlete who is an elite run-stuffer with room to grow as a pass rusher and in my opinion will absolutely wreak havoc in the middle of offensive lines for years to come. He has question marks with production and a misdemeanor charge but there are no perfect prospects at this point of the draft. In fact it’ll be a surprise to me if he drops this far, I’m that confident in his ability to become a plus starter in this league. He was so dominant with Michigan’s combo-twist machine the strength and conditioning staff had to contact the manufacturer to add more weight to it. He’s blown everyone away in physical testing and on-field drills. Quite simply, someone this large, this fast, this violent, this...FREAKISH, is going to be a great addition to any defense.
Do you approve of this pick?
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2023 BGN Mock Draft Order
1) Panthers (pheebthegoose): QB Bryce Young
2) Texans (Phoenix X Minimus): QB C.J. Stroud
3) Cardinals (alwaysaphillyfan): EDGE Will Anderson
4) Colts (eaglenomics): QB Anthony Richardson
5) Seahawks (The Player Formerly Known as Mousecop): DT Jalen Carter
6) Lions (Sam2TheMaximum): DE Tyree Wilson
7) Raiders (joey2arms): OT Paris Johnson Jr.
8) Falcons (Kephas): CB Christian Gonzalez
9) Bears (chewy wellington): OT Peter Skoronski
10) Eagles (Philly21): CB Devon Witherspoon
11) Titans (RachAttack): WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba
12) Texans (Domonate): WR Quentin Johnston
13) Jets (JawnJam): OT Broderick Jones
14) Patriots (Amish Eagle Lion): CB Joey Porter Jr.
15) Packers (bdawk4ever): QB Will Levis
16) Commanders (the dog did it): OT Darnell Wright
17) Steelers (Dr.MidnightGreen): CB Deonte Banks
18) Lions (DreadPirateRocco): DT Adetomiwa Adebawore
19) Buccaneers (Neil Dutton): DT Calijah Kancey
20) Seahawks (wardbell92): DE Myles Murphy
21) Chargers (Brendanekstrom): TE Dalton Kincaid
22) Ravens (Rollinpin): RB Bijan Robinson
23) Vikings (FierceDisc65): DE Lukas Van Ness
24) Jaguars (Leo Bedio): DB Brian Branch
25) Giants (dkays): WR Jordan Addison
26) Cowboys (w.connell4): LB Drew Sanders
27) Bills (EHyungNim): LB Jack Campbell
28) Bengals (mainmanham): TE Michael Mayer
29) Saints (RiverCityEagle): DT Mazi Smith
30) Eagles (ablesser88)
31) Chiefs (Hoosinole)
Now it’s time for you to vote for who YOU think should be selected in the 2023 BGN Community Consensus Mock Draft.
Who should the Saints pick at No. 29?
This poll is closed
DT Mazi Smith
DT Bryan Bresee
DT Adetomiwa Adebawore
DE Keoin White
DE Felix Anudike-Uzomah
WR Zay Jones
WR Jalin Hyatt
C Steve Avila
1) Panthers: QB C.J. Stroud
2) Texans: QB Bryce Young
3) Cardinals: EDGE Will Anderson
4) Colts: QB Anthony Richardson
5) Seahawks: DT Jalen Carter
6) Lions: DE Tyree Wilson
7) Raiders: OT Paris Johnson Jr.
8) Falcons: CB Christian Gonzalez
9) Bears: OT Peter Skoronski
10) Eagles: CB Devon Witherspoon
11) Titans: WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba
12) Texans: DE Myles Murphy
13) Jets: OT Broderick Jones
14) Patriots: CB Joey Porter Jr.
15) Packers: DE Nolan Smith
16) Commanders: OT Darnell Wright
17) Steelers: CB Deonte Banks
18) Lions: DT Calijah Kancey
19) Buccaneers: QB Will Levis
20) Seahawks: DE Lukas Van Ness
21) Chargers: RB Bijan Robinson
22) Ravens: WR Quentin Johnston
23) Vikings: QB Hendon Hooker
24) Jaguars: DB Brian Branch
25) Giants: WR Jordan Addison
26) Cowboys: TE Michael Mayer
27) Bills: LB Jack Campbell
28) Bengals: TE Dalton Kincaid