The Dallas Cowboys made one of their worst draft blunders selecting Taco Charlton. Would they be repeating that mistake by drafting K’Lavon Chaisson?
With the 28th overall selection in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft, the Dallas Cowboys selected Michigan defensive end, Taco Charlton. Two games into the 2019 regular season, the Cowboys up and released Charlton. That, my friends, is a draft blunder of epic proportions.
Adding insult to incompetence was the fact the Cowboys left Wisconsin linebacker T.J. Watt on the board to select Charlton who was viewed as a better scheme fit. Watt has gone on to record a total of 34.5 sacks for the Pittsburgh Steelers over three seasons and earned himself back-to-back Pro Bowl nominations over the past two years.
So is it any wonder why fans might be a bit apprehensive about selecting another pass rushing project in the first round of this week’s NFL draft? The player in question being LSU EDGE rusher K’Lavon Chaisson.
But what similarities do Charlton and Chaisson share, if any? And is it really fair to compare the two players? Let’s dive into some of the details.
Let’s begin with Charlton. The Cowboys reached for the pass-rushing Wolverine back in 2017, admitting they had a second-round grade on the developmental project. But Charlton showed promise.
The 6-foot-6, 272-pound defensive end racked up 13.5 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks in 11 games his senior year at Michigan. And Charlton demonstrated growth down the stretch that last season, recording at least one sack in each of his final four contests.
Although NFL.com draft analyst Lance Zierlein compared Charlton to Arizona Cardinals defensive end Chandler Jones, who just posted a career-high 19.0 sacks last season, he also noted that the buzzword surrounding the Michigan prospect was “inconsistent“.
And those concerns proved to be warranted during Charlton’s brief career in Dallas. After a promising, but underwhelming rookie season where he recorded 3.0 sacks in 16 games, the first-rounder all but disappeared in Year Two.
That was due, in part, to a shoulder injury that required offseason surgery. Charlton ended up playing only 11 games in 2018. And despite starting in seven on those contests, he only managed to record a single sack.
After being a healthy scratch at one point that same season, questions began to emerge about whether the Cowboys coaching staff had lost faith in Charlton. That answer was revealed the following season when he was released.
Fast forward to today and the 2020 NFL Draft is this week. The Cowboys own the 17th overall selection in the first round. This offseason, Dallas lost their sack leader from last season, defensive end Robert Quinn, to free agency.
And although the front office has signed former All-Pro pass rusher Aldon Smith, both he and defensive end Randy Gregory are currently suspended and awaiting judgment from the NFL on their possible reinstatements.
So, the Cowboys could look to address that need with their top pick once again. For some, Chaisson is the second-best pass rusher in this draft class (CBS Sports, Walter Football) behind Ohio State’s Chase Young, who appears to be a guaranteed top-three selection.
Overall, this appears to be a fairly weak class when it comes to EDGE rushers, inflating their value with a perceived lack of depth at the position within the college prospect pool. Certainly, Chaisson and others like Iowa’s A.J. Epenesa and Penn State’s Yetur Gross-Matos are hoping to benefit from it.
As for the prospect in question, Chaisson is 6-foot-4, 250-pounds. He recorded 13.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks in 13 games last season for the Tigers. The Draft Network’s Joe Marino believes Chaisson, although a touch inexperienced, has an incredibly high ceiling and noted his lack of physical restrictions.
NFL.com analyst Bucky Brooks believes the young speed rusher actually has Pro Bowl potential but is concerned that Chaisson’s sack production didn’t match his talent. Brooks recently ranked him as the fourth-best EDGE prospect in this draft class, behind Young, Epenesa, and Gross-Matos respectively.
In the end, there’s no way to tell if K’Lavon Chaisson will have a similar career trajectory as Taco Charlton if he’s selected by the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday night. There are certainly many unanswered questions surrounding his potential, as there are with every prospect.
But you’d have to believe that the Cowboys themselves would certainly think twice before drafting another potential developmental project with their top pick. And they’d have to truly be convinced to take that kind of risk so soon after making one of the biggest draft missteps in franchise history.