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Mazi Smith NFL Draft 2023: Scouting Report for Michigan DL

BR NFL Scouting DepartmentContributor I

Michigan defensive lineman Mazi Smith (58) rushes against Connecticut offensive lineman Noel Ofori-Nyadu (62) in the first half of an NCAA college football game in Ann Arbor, Mich., Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
AP Photo/Paul Sancya

HEIGHT: 6'3"

WEIGHT: 337

HAND: TBD

ARM: TBD

WINGSPAN: TBD


40-YARD DASH: TBD

3-CONE: TBD

SHUTTLE: TBD

VERTICAL: TBD

BROAD: TBD


POSITIVES

– Unique blend of size, strength and athletic ability. He carries his frame well, too, with little to no bad weight.

– Tons of power in his hands to stand up to offensive linemen at the point of attack. He can gain control of the block fairly easily, and his upper body strength will occasionally allow him to recover if he gets beat initially against the run.

– Takes on blocks with a wide base.

– When he anticipates the second blocker coming, he can absorb contact and split double-teams.

– Sheds blocks pretty easily and has shown the ability to escape with a swim move/arm over, too.

– Has the potential to be an effective power rusher at the next level if his get-off can improve to be more consistent with his bull rush.

– Also showed flashes of winning with hump and club-by moves and can develop a push-pull move if he gets more limber with his lower half to clear his hips and get a clean win.

– When slanting as a pass-rusher, he has a little more time to get his hands up and has a decent hand-swipe move that he can win with.


NEGATIVES

– Late reaction to the snap and doesn't have much initial quickness off the ball. This could become a big issue against scoop blocks and reaches at the next level.

– Likes to stand up out of his stance. Quick interior offensive linemen who play with good leverage will be his nemesis against the run at the next level.

– He's slow to get his hands up as a run defender, which will expose his chest and can lead to his shoulders getting turned versus combo and scoop blocks.

– The effectiveness of his bull rush is inconsistent because of his poor get-off and wide hand placement.

– Needs to add a violent rip to the end of pass-rush moves to get offensive linemen off of him when he does win. He lets them hang on too long and will get ridden past the quarterback.

– Doesn't pass rush with much of a plan or a motor. He'll quit if his first move doesn't work.


NOTES

– DOB: June 16, 2001

– No. 1 on Bruce Feldman's list of top athletes entering the season, 22 bench reps at 325 lbs, 550 lbs close-grip bench, 33" vert, 6.95-second 3-cone

– A 4-star recruit in the 2019 class, No. 105 overall, No. 11 DT, per 247Sports composite rating

– Charged with felony weapons possession, per Detroit Free Press, pled guilty to misdemeanor weapons possession, per ESPN, from a traffic stop on Oct. 7

– 27 career starts

– 2022 Honors: First-team All-Big Ten

– 2021 Honors: Honorable Mention All-Big Ten (coaches and media), Academic All-Big Ten

– 2020 Honors: Academic All-Big Ten


OVERALL

The Athletic's Bruce Feldman ranked the 6'3", 337-pound Smith first on his list of players with "unique physical abilities that wow even those who observe gifted athletes every day". Mazi Smith caught everyone's attention heading into this season with his rare blend of size, strength and athleticism. He's shown flashes of some All-Pro caliber traits, but consistency has been a major issue and a large reason why he's been fairly unproductive in college.

Heading into the playoffs, Smith only had half a sack and five tackles for loss in two seasons as a starter, and he would disappear on tape far too often for someone with his physical gifts. Conditioning might play a factor in that, too, as his pass-rush motor is sub-par.

A lot of Smith's lack of production is rooted in his get-off—or lack thereof—and being faster off of the ball will solve a lot of his problems as a run defender and pass-rusher. Michigan did have him two-gap a lot, which can hinder a defensive lineman's initial quickness, but he was still slow off the ball, even when one-gapping or penetrating.

The Wolverine is more traits and tools than a finished project, but it's going to be hard to find more defensive tackles with more potential than he has, meaning his best football could be ahead of him.

Schematically, Smith would be best as a 0- to 2i-technique in either odd or even fronts, and he could potentially play as a 3-technique if he adds some quickness down the line. It's just a matter of how patient teams are willing to be with him as a team hoping for a defensive tackle to make an immediate impact might be looking elsewhere.


GRADE: 7.3 (High-Level Backup/Potential Starter, Round 3)

OVERALL RANK: 72

POSITION RANK: TBD

PRO COMPARISON: DJ Reader


Written by B/R NFL Draft Scout Matt Holder