Should this Dallas Cowboys rookie be considered a bust?

ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 30: Kirk Cousins /

Even though most fans expect instant gratification, it is way too early to consider Dallas Cowboys defensive end Taco Charlton a bust.

If you’re a rookie chosen in the first round, expectations are always high.  Slap the sticker of the Dallas Cowboys star on your helmet and those expectations increase exponentially.

For rookie defensive end Taco Charlton, there was little he was going to accomplish that would have satisfied the Cowboys fan base.

His three sacks did nothing to impress the masses.  The performance of another defensive rookie may have hurt him worse, however.

There is no denying that fellow 2017 defensive draftee T.J. Watt‘s rookie campaign was impressive.  Registering 54 tackles, with seven sacks, eight passes defended and an interception stands out.  Comparing that to Charlton’s production, though, is apples to oranges.

For one, Watt’s role is vastly different.  He is a stand up, outside linebacker in a 3-4 defensive scheme.  Charlton plays in a 4-3 with his hand on the ground, with the primary task being to rush the quarterback.

Would it have been nice if he would have put up more than just three sacks?  Absolutely.  Does that mean his rookie season makes him a bust?  Not even close.

Take a look back at every player since 2010 drafted between the 22nd and 34th overall picks.  Doing so, you’ll find that Charlton’s performance is very similar to a lot of other players.

In 2011, for example, the Saints’ Cameron Jordan tallied just one sack while Jets rookie Muhammad Wilkerson put up three.  Six years later, they collectively have over 100 sacks.

In 2010, the Colts utilized the 31st overall pick to draft Jerry Hughes.  In his first two seasons, he put the quarterback on the ground just once.  After another so-so year in Indianapolis, Hughes went on to Buffalo.  There, he put together back-to-back double-digit sack seasons.

You can look no further than fellow Dallas Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence for additional proof.  Lawrence put up a goose egg in his rookie season.  Now?  He’s about to be a very, very rich man after posting 14.5 sacks in a contract year.

The reasons for reserving judgement on a player after just one season are many.  First and foremost, it takes a lot of guys time to acclimate themselves to the pro game.  Charlton was never a big time sack artist in school, so why would you expect him to be as rookie?

Another reason is his draft slot.

Four of the five all-time leaders in sacks were drafted within the first five selections.  Yes, you can obviously get great talent anywhere in the draft.  There is a reason, however, that pass rushing defensive ends are such a premium asset.

Lastly, it’s hard to put up numbers when you’re not seeing the field.  The Dallas Cowboys use a rotational system which focuses on waves of fresh bodies.  Charlton was only on the field for 38% of the possible defensive snaps even though he was active for all 16 games.

For perspective purposes, the Cowboys’ defensive line leader was DeMarcus Lawrence with 67%.  Only three Cowboys rushmen were on the field over 40% of the time.  T.J. Watt, by the way, was on the field for 76% of Pittsburgh’s defensive snaps.

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Will Charlton’s production and playing time increase in 2018?  I think it’s very possible.  One thing that is certain.  It’s unfair and premature to label him a bust.

Let’s see what direction the arrow is pointing this time next year.