In the short term, defensive tackle seems solidified for the Buffalo Bills, appearing set to trot out the same four suspected contributors as last year — Ed Oliver, DaQuan Jones, Tim Settle, and Jordan Phillips. The problem is that none of those players are signed past 2023. Cue up the Bills looking for young DT talent via the2023 NFL Draft. One of the top DT prospects in this year’s draft class is Mazi Smith out of Michigan. Buffalo was interested enough to bring him in for a top-30 visit recently. Let’s see what Smith brings to the table.
Mazi Smith’s college career
Mazi Smith is a true senior and became a regular starter in his junior season (2021). He gained some traction as a junior when he started all 14 games and logged 37 tackles (2.5 for loss), earning him honorable mention All-Big Ten Conference accolades. In his senior season, Smith was a consensus All-Big Ten First-Team selection by turning in 48 tackles (2.5 for loss).
These statistics don’t exactly jump off the page, but remember defensive tackles don’t always have to show up on the stat sheet to be a dominant player. Yes, some DTs can put up big sack numbers and rack up tackles for loss, but there are also some amazing players who are just black holes in the middle of the defense, constantly eating up blockers. I’d say Smith probably slots somewhere in between these two types of players. He has the potential to rush the passer, but he was primarily used as a 1-technique nose tackle at Michigan where he was mainly tasked with taking on double teams and eating up blockers for the next level.
DT Mazi Smith, Michigan— Erik Turner (@ErikJTurner) April 3, 2023
*Wide stance and base
*Plays into OL
*Stack and shed ability with very good hand placement
*Gets under OL’s pads
*SHOCK in his hands
*Versatility and athleticism to align at NT and some 3t situations
*Consistently creates stalemates on combo… pic.twitter.com/TCAJ8bvYUc
Michigan IDL Mazi Smith is quite good and I still feel like he's not talked about enough in this group of IDL for the 2023 NFL Draft. pic.twitter.com/joNlZaLDSz— Russell Brown (@RussNFLDraft) February 26, 2023
Mazi Smith’s NFL Scouting Combine/Pro Day
Mazi Smith participated in the NFL combine but only tested in the bench press, where he pumped out an impressive 34 reps. He measured in at 6’3” and 323 pounds, with 33 3/4” arms and 9 3/4” hands.
At his pro day, he posted 29 1/2” in the vertical jump and 8’11” in the broad jump. Smith declined to run in the 40-yard dash and was quoted saying “You start training like a track star as a big fella, it starts getting hard on you a little bit. I’m good at football man. I ain’t no 100-meter sprinter.”
How freaky is Michigan DT Mazi Smith?— The Athletic (@TheAthletic) August 10, 2022
This is the Wolverines' reactive plyo stairs test.
Smith did it in 2.82 seconds. Aiden Hutchinson (who is 60lbs lighter) did it in 2.57.@BruceFeldmanCFB's Freaks List: https://t.co/EDCa2DoBIP
Mazi Smith’s Pros & Cons
- Has a nice blend of power & quickness
- Has the size to play the 1-technique and clog up the middle but also could potentially slide over to the 3-technique
- His lower body strength is evident when taking on double teams
- Has a violent punch and can lock out defenders with ease
- Has quick feet to beat guards to a gap
- Can throw defenders when he gets blocked initially
- Doesn’t have much production behind the line of scrimmage
- His quickness doesn’t always translate in pursuit of the QB
- Remains to be seen if he can contribute in the pass rush if given the opportunity
- Pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor weapons possession charge in 2022
Mazi Smith likely will come off the board on Day 2 of the NFL Draft, and if the board falls correctly the Buffalo Bills could utilize some young DT talent in that range. He has some versatility to his game, which the Bills usually covet. Smith would come into a situation where he could develop in a rotational role for Buffalo and work himself into a starting position in year two if the Bills were to draft him.