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NFL Draft

Cowboys Draft: DE Taco Charlton Not Among Players with 1st Round Grades

Sean Martin



Ever since Mason Crosby split the uprights from 52 yards out at AT&T Stadium to eliminate the Dallas Cowboys from the playoffs in 2016, Cowboys Nation has screamed, begged, and obsessed over finding a pass rush to avenge losses like this to elite quarterbacks such as Aaron Rodgers. Last night, the Cowboys addressed this pass rush by selecting Michigan DE Taco Charlton with the 28th overall pick, and the reaction was anything but overwhelmingly positive.

Charlton is a fresh face for Rod Marinelli to mold into an NFL pass rusher, looking the part at 6055, 277 pounds with 34 1/4 inch arms. With 18.5 sacks over four years at Michigan, Taco wasn't an elite sack-master by any means, but will come to a Dallas team with a high floor ready to take full advantage of the snaps available for him - of which there should be plenty.

Surrounding all of these positives that have shined through a window of second guessing with "what could have been" at pick #28 rears an ugly reality though, in that the Cowboys reportedly window dressed their board to select the big-school prospect in Charlton against other first round players remaining.

Drew Davison on Twitter

The #Cowboys had three first-round grades on DEs, but Taco Charlton wasn't one of them.

Popular names like T.J, Watt, Kevin King, Tyus Bowser, and Jordan Willis remained on Dallas' draft board when they selected Taco Charlton - as did other pass rushers graded higher.

Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli has had a lot of say in the Cowboys war room over the past seasons when it comes to selecting the defensive ends he feels he can develop. Taco Charlton's selection marks the first time since 2007 the Cowboys have spent their first round pick on a pass rusher, and it certainly appears that Marinelli had a large say in who his "war daddy" would be.

Brandon George on Twitter

Jerry Jones on Taco: "This guy was as healthy as any defensive linemen we looked at. That was important for us.

Jerry and the rest of the Dallas Cowboys front office have of course fully supported drafting Taco Charlton, who won out in the war room perhaps not solely because of Marinelli but also due to Dallas' desperate need at his position. Circling back to the fearsome pass rush that we all want this team to have, the first step of adding talent to any unit is to add capable players, and Taco will be just that at DE come the start of 2017 for the Cowboys.

So no, the Cowboys did not come away with a first round player last night - something almost expected down at pick #28. They did come away with a guy that will get after opposing quarterbacks with a star on his helmet, and that's all we really wanted in the end -- isn't it?

Tell us what you think about "Cowboys Draft: DE Taco Charlton Not Among Players with 1st Round Grades" in the comments below. You can also email me at, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

Born January 28th, 1996- Cowboys Super Bowl XXX. Point Boro Panther, Montclair State Red Hawk, and most importantly a proud member of Cowboys Nation! I host "Upon Further Review" on 90.3 WMSC FM and every Friday from 1-4 PM ET. Twitter: @SeanMartinNFL.



  1. Jess Haynie

    Jess Haynie

    April 28, 2017 at 7:18 am

    Let’s get real about this. If they had three 1st-round grades on DEs then two of them were Myles Garrett and Solomon Thomas. We never had a shot at them, anyway. So who was #3? Maybe it was Jonathan Allen, who was listed as a DE throughout the draft process but is really a DT in our scheme.

    That third guy also might have been Derek Barnett, Charles Harris, or Takkarist McKinley. None of them made it to #28, so the truth is that we weren’t going to get a “1st round DE” without trading up.

    What we do know is that they had a shot at T.J. Watt, Tyus Bowser, and other guys and still picked Taco. They must see something they like.

    • Kevin Black

      April 28, 2017 at 10:40 am

      They said in their press conference that only one player was left on their board with a first round grade and that was Kevin King.

  2. dallas1966

    April 28, 2017 at 9:03 am

    I agree with Jess, Coach Marinelli, must have seen something in Taco, that persuade Coach, to believe that Tsco has the “it” factors, to be successful in the NFL.

    With Charles Haley, D-Ware, Coach Marinelli, Lett, and left offensive tackle Tyron Smith, will bring out the beast in Taco, to be the Pro Bowl War Daddy, Jerry has been searching for.

    Don’t forget Randy Gregory, is still a member of the Cowboys. Can you imagine a defensive front of Irving, Lawrence ( if healthy), Gregory, Tapper, Crawford, and the others, in 2018.

  3. Kevin Black

    April 28, 2017 at 10:39 am

    Jerry’s statement says it all: “This guy was as healthy as any defensive linemen we looked at. That was important for us.”

    This is a replacement for Tank Lawrence, plain and simple.

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NFL Draft

Should the Dallas Cowboys Make Offensive Tackle a Draft Priority?

Brian Martin



Should Dallas Cowboys Make Offensive Tackle a Draft Priority?

The 2019 NFL Draft will be an interesting one for the Dallas Cowboys. From the outside looking in it doesn't seem as if they have any clear "needs" that need to be addressed. But, if you were to dive deeper into their roster you'd probably discover things might not be as stable as we'd like to believe.

The Dallas Cowboys could obviously stand to upgrade several positions. So far this offseason wide receiver, tight end, and safety have been at the forefront of the discussion, but one position not being mentioned is offensive tackle. Why?

There has to be growing concerns within the organization about Tyron Smith's inability to stay healthy for an entire season. He has a bothersome back and it has continued to make him unavailable for at least two or three games these past few seasons. How much longer can they afford to roll the dice with his back issues?

Then there is La'el Collins, who is entering a contract year in 2019. Collins' best attribute during his time with the Cowboys is probably his availability. He's battled through some injuries himself these past couple years, but managed to play through it. Unfortunately though, his career has been up-and-down since taking over as the starting right tackle. It's probably time to find his successor.

La'el Collins

Dallas Cowboys RT La'el Collins

Sadly, Dallas doesn't have much offensive tackle depth behind Smith and Collins. Cameron Fleming, the Cowboys swing tackle in 2018, is now a free agent and is probably looking to join a team where he can earn a little more playing time. The only other OT candidate on the roster might be Connor Williams, but even that's an unknown sense he's never played tackle in the NFL.

I don't know what the Cowboys brass thinks of all of this, but I find it more than a little concerning. We know all too well what happens when the OT play isn't up to par. Chaz Green anyone!? That game alone against the Falcons is one we would all like to forget, but serves as a reminder of just how important it is to have an emergency plan in place.

The Cowboys of course have one or two ways of solidifying their tackle position. They can use free agency once again to find a swing tackle like they did with Cameron Fleming last year, or they can use one of their draft picks this year. The latter seems to be the wiser move, especially with Collins' contract coming to an end.

The Dallas Cowboys may have Tyron Smith and La'el Collins as their starters for the upcoming 2019 season, but it's never too early to start preparing for the future. That's why it wouldn't surprise me at all if Dallas used one of their draft picks this year on an offensive tackle. In fact, I'd encourage it.

I really like the idea of providing some competition at the RT position. If La'el Collins wins out fine. The rookie OT can then serve as the swing tackle and take over next season when Collins' contract expires. But, if the rookie wins Collins could also be become a trade asset. Sounds like a win-win to me.

Do you think offensive tackle should be a Dallas Cowboys draft priority?

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NFL Draft

Cowboys Draft Target: Kentucky CB Lonnie Johnson Jr.

Kevin Brady



Cowboys Draft Target: Kentucky CB Lonnie Johnson Jr.

Since Kris Richard has taken over the back-end of the Dallas Cowboys defense, they have clearly shown a bias towards a "type" of cornerback. Richard, looking to build this Dallas unit in a similar form to his Seattle teams, has prioritized long corners both in height and arm length.

As his responsibilities within the organization increase, it's only fair to expect Kris Richard to have more say in who the Cowboys' defense acquires in terms of talent. This means we should anticipate more defensive backs who fit his type, such as Kentucky Wildcats cornerback Lonnie Johnson Jr.

The Player

So why does Lonnie Johnson fit the mold of what Kris Richard tends to look for? Well, for starters, he is 6'3" and 206 lbs with 32 1/4" arms. He's a long corner with excellent size and the trait profile which indicates he could be the perfect candidate to play cornerback in Dallas.

But while he might look great on paper, the tape is always the most important factor for evaluating and projecting talent. And, for Johnson, the tape isn't all-that great. Despite his length, Johnson struggled mightily in press-man coverage at Kentucky. Too often he is late or ineffective with his hands, leaving him susceptible to being blown by by the opposing receiver. He often loses balance due to poor footwork, and is rather average with his hips and quick change of direction.

Where Johnson was his best in college was in zone coverage, playing his deep third of Kentucky's cover-three look. Rarely did he allow receivers behind him in zone coverage, and displayed good instincts when deciding whether to jump routes or play more conservatively when playing in that deep third. He was not nearly as comfortable underneath, and Kentucky didn't ask him to play in that role too often. Because of how big he is, Johnson is able to contest at the catch point regularly, yet he only deflected 9 passes in 2 years.

What gives me the most hope for Lonnie Johnson as a prospect (besides his length) is his Senior Bowl performance. Johnson impressed daily at the Senior Bowl, looking more comfortable in man coverage and playing much better in his press technique.

Was this Johnson becoming more comfortable over time and a sign of things to come at the next level, or was it an anomaly that we shouldn't read too much into? The answer to that question is up to the individual teams, but his combine performance will play a huge role in how those teams answer.

The Fit

As I've discussed already, Lonnie Johnson Jr. fits what Kris Richard tends to look for in his cornerbacks. He is long, tall, and relatively athletic, making him a clay piece for a coach like Richard to develop.

The question is, however, how much development can really occur? The highs for Johnson are rather high when he maximizes his natural abilities on the field. But too often he is sloppy in technique, or looks lost in man coverage. Whether or not Richard can "fix" Johnson completely may never be seen, but teams (especially this one) could fall in love with him as a prospect for what he can become if it all comes together.

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NFL Draft

Cowboys Draft Target: Oklahoma Sooners RB Rodney Anderson

Brian Martin



Cowboys Draft Target: Oklahoma Sooners RB Rodney Anderson

NAME: Rodney Anderson

SCHOOL: Oklahoma


POSITION: Running Back

CLASS: RS Junior

JERSEY: No. 24


HT: 6'1"

WT: 219

D.O.B.: 9/12/96


Rodney Anderson || 2017-18 Highlights ᴴᴰ || Oklahoma

Rodney Anderson || 2017-18 Highlights ᴴᴰ || Oklahoma Like, Comment, and Subscribe for More! Follow my Instagram: @szhighlights Songs: - "Don't Know Me" by Trae Tha Truth - "Better Days" by Trae Tha Truth I do not own any of these highlights or music clips.

Before we get into the player, we should really try to get to know Rodney Anderson the person. He attended Katy High School in Katy, Texas, one of the powerhouse HS football programs in the state. He was a four-star recruit who received offers from Auburn, Baylor, Texas A&M, and Oklahoma. He originally committed to Texas A&M, but changed his mind and decided to go to Oklahoma instead. He had an up-and-down career on the football field at Oklahoma because of injuries, but did graduate with a degree in Arts and Sciences in May 2018 and is pursuing his Master's in Human Relations.


Rodney Anderson has the ideal size and athleticism to become a featured back in the NFL. He shows good patience and vision on film to allow his offensive lineman to secure their blocks before sticking his foot in the ground and exploding through the hole. He runs behind his pads and shows good strength, loose hips, and balance to run through arm tackles. More than capable of picking up those "dirty yards" and is surprisingly slippery as a runner in the open field.

Anderson is capable of playing in a power scheme or a zone heavy scheme like the Dallas Cowboys deploy. He has been featured in a number of rushing concepts including gap/power, read action, and power sweeps. His talent also carries over to the passing game. He possesses soft hands and looks natural catching the ball both out of the backfield and down the field as a receiver. Solid in pass protection, but this is an area of his game where he can improve.


The biggest negative about Rodney Anderson is his injury history at Oklahoma. He is basically a one-year wonder because of three separate season-ending injuries, but bad things happen in three so maybe that's behind him. Durability will be a question mark entering the NFL though.

His vision is sometimes questionable, especially on inside and outside zone reads. Has a tendency to to try to bounce runs to the outside too often or cut back too quickly. Shows good explosiveness, but only average burst through the hole. Seems to have adequate long speed on tape, but is 40 yard dash time will be heavily scrutinized if he's able to run at the NFL Scouting Combine.

In the passing game he needs to improve his route running and pass protection if he wants to be a three-down back in the NFL. The talent is there, just not the production and consistency. Will also have to prove he can be productive against stacked boxes at the next level since he rarely saw any in college due to Oklahoma's spread offense.

Cowboys Fit:

If the Dallas Cowboys are looking for a running back capable of being a featured back in the NFL, while also spelling Ezekiel Elliott from time to time, then Rodney Anderson is there guy. His combination of power, balance, explosiveness, and scheme diversity could come in handy as their RB2. Not only would he provide a good insurance policy if the unthinkable were to happen to Zeke, but he could take over if they decide not to give No. 21 a contract extension.

There is a lot to like about Rodney Anderson's game and his ability to contribute in the running and passing game, but he is not by any means a clean prospect. Despite his immense talent, his injury history and lack of consistency in college is bothersome. But, as a mid-round pick the reward far outweighs the risks. Paired with Elliott, the Cowboys could have a formidable one-two punch in their backfield and could pound opposing defenses into submission.

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