Despite being selected at the end of the first round in 2017 NFL Draft, one NFL.com analyst predicts Dallas Cowboys rookie Taco Charlton will win the Defensive Rookie of the Year award.
It’s no secret that the Dallas Cowboys biggest perceived weakness has been getting the opposing quarterbacks for several seasons now. And despite addressing the issue with many different high draft picks in recent years, the problem continues to linger and has robbed the Cowboys of precious opportunities, especially in the playoffs.
This offseason, the Cowboys’ brass decided to reach to the top shelf to find themselves a pass rusher, electing to use their top draft selection on Michigan defensive end Taco Charlton. Yet, his addition to the roster seemed more like a consolation prize than the landing of an instant defensive game-changer.
And when it was revealed the Cowboys didn’t even have a first round grade on Charlton, some assumed Dallas was stuck with yet another developmental project. Where could Taco succeed where other high draft selections like fellow defensive ends DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory have failed?
The drafting of Taco in Dallas is about traits. The 22-year old has great size (6’6, 270 lbs.) for the position, and he understands how to use that leverage. But the young defender started just one season at Michigan, so the sample size is very small. So the lack of experience could be an issue.
Yet, Charlton showed a lot of upside during his senior year recording 6.0 of his career-high 10.0 sacks during his final five games as a Wolverine. That sudden flash of production should give fans hope Taco can continue that upward trend of development into his rookie season in Dallas.
But with more coveted pass rushers like Texas A&M’s Myles Garrett, Tennessee’s Derek Barnett, Missouri’s Charles Harris and UCLA’s Takkarist McKinley taken before Charlton with the 28th overall selection by Dallas, not many would earmark Taco for a possible Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate. But one NFL insider has done just that…
"“No rookie is in a better position to help his team immediately than Charlton — and no team needs more help from a rookie than Dallas does from Charlton,” wrote NFL.com analyst Elliot Harrison on the league’s official website. “The Cowboys recorded 36 sacks last season, a so-so figure made decidedly less relevant by the fact that opposing quarterbacks attempted 633 passes against them. Moreover, the team’s leading ‘edge rusher’ (a term I use generously), Benson Mayowa, garnered six whole sacks. Get excited. Charlton was an impact player at Michigan, a football powerhouse. He’s a full-time player.”"
What could hold Charlton back from being a legitimate DROY candidate will be the Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli. His scheme currently features a substitution-heavy rotation on defense. And in order to keep the rookie fresh, while also limiting his mistakes, it only makes sense Taco’s defensive snaps will be limited to start the season.
Ultimately, Charlton’s play will determine the number of his defensive snaps. As we’ve seen other young defenders receive a significant boost in playing time after big performances in Dallas.
Rookie defensive end Taco Charlton has an opportunity to make a big impact this season. And the fact some teams may be sleeping on the young pass rusher could work to his advantage in his inaugural season. Now, it’s up to the Dallas Cowboys’ 2017 first rounder to perform like one when the regular season kicks off in September.