Going into day one of the 2017 NFL Draft, the entire world knew the Cowboys were looking to add their “war daddy” defensive end over any other position.
In fact, it seemed clear the Atlanta Falcons knew this as well, trading in front of the Cowboys to snag the highly touted UCLA pass rusher Takkarist McKinley.
So, with both Takk and Missouri’s Charles Harris off the board, it appeared the Cowboys may look towards Washington corner Kevin King instead. Or, if Cowboys Twitter got their way, they’d go after a 3-4 OLB who could convert to RDE and rush the passer off their athleticism.
Shocking the universe, the Cowboys selected Michigan defensive end Taco Charlton with their first round pick. And, not taking well to the surprise, much of Cowboys Nation made their distaste for the pick felt on various forms of social media and blogs.
And to be honest, it was hard to blame them for doing so.
Months had been spent scouting these edge rushers, looking for the explosive and athletic end who could give the Cowboys an element to their defense they haven’t had in years. But instead they prioritized length, height, and weight over 3-cone times and bend.
While the initial reaction to the pick was disappointment for many, there is still reason to feel good about the pick for Cowboys fans.
First off, Taco Charlton’s flashes on tape are really good. Inconsistent in his pass rush at times, Charlton does flash the ability to be a top-tier defensive end and pass rusher at the next level. Using his length and strength to his advantage, I saw Charlton overpower offensive tackles at the college level, and win with rip-moves here and there.
And with some coaching from Rod Marinelli, he could be a solid rusher off the left edge for years to come.
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Just as the top-level flashes are clear, so are the flaws as well. He clearly is not the athletic rusher that a Takkarist McKinley or Tyus Bowser is, lacking the lateral quickness, change of direction, and bend that you’d like to see from your right defensive end.
Without having that ability to speed rush, I don’t know how you can expect Charlton to fill the Cowboys’ need adequately. He looks more like another one of the rotational ends than he does a player who can separate himself from the pack.
Because of where the Cowboys selected him, it appears they have faith he can be the RDE that I frankly don’t think he can be. So, he will undoubtedly get his chances to prove me, and a lot of the draft evaluators, wrong this Fall.
My gut still says he will be delegated to the left side in time, however, which brings up a secondary problem.
What are we doing with all of these LDE’s?
We don’t have enough information to say that Taco Charlton is better than David Irving yet, and if he’s not, then the Cowboys may have botched their first round pick. Because at the end of the day, spending a first round pick on a player who isn’t guaranteed to beat out the current edge defender doesn’t seem like a great idea.
Still, I do trust Will McClay and the Cowboys coaching staff. They feel they have a plan for utilizing Taco Charlton, and I am anxious to see what that plan will look like.
At worst, the Cowboys just added a solid rotational defensive end. At best, they probably found their starting LDE for a while. So, while drafting a player like Tyus Bowser would’ve brought a higher ceiling, they have prioritized size and a high floor over that athletic potential.
As a fan, I hope it works out.