Long Taco Charlton just ‘looks like an NFL player’
When the NFL draft began with an offensive purge, the Cowboys lucked out. Seven teams among the top 10 overall picks selected offensive players, so the QB- and RB-happy teams let more quality defenders fall into Dallas’ lap at 28.
Even after the Dolphins took Missouri OLB Charles Harris at 20 and the Falcons traded up to 26 for defensive end Tak McKinley, options remained. Dallas selected Michigan defensive end Taco Charlton – nearly equivalent to McKinley on the Cowboys draft board, sources told SportsDay’s David Moore – with the 28th pick.
“He comes from a great program,” Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett said late Thursday night. “It’s hard to get on the field [at Michigan]. He thrives in that kind of environment.”
Even as a rookie, Charlton will find opportunities to compete in a Cowboys shallow pool of pass rushers. The defensive end position should help him. Another key that should speed his success: facing top-tier left tackle Tyron Smith in practice regularly.
“That’s a good environment for a young player to grow in,” Garrett said.
Garrett – along with Cowboys GM/owner Jerry Jones and son Stephen – said 22-year-old Charlton has that capacity to learn.
“He has a real athleticism,” Jerry Jones said. “He has the arm length that we’re trying to get at the right defensive end [or] can possibly play left side or inside. His size is one of his greatest attributes.”
Garrett echoed the sentiment, noting Charlton’s length yields “unique traits” and he “knows how to use that length.”The defensive end’s arms stretch 34 ¼ inches, his hands spanning 9 ¾ inches. But NFL.com draft analysts suggested Charlton could do a “better job of using his length to keep blockers off of him.”
Jones also said Charlton – who missed the Senior Bowl due to a high-ankle left sprain he’d battled last season – will be ready. Charlton was “as healthy as any defensive linemen” they looked at, Jerry said.
“He is going to be ready to play from the get-go … that was important to us,” Jerry Jones said. “We were really awarded when Taco was still there.”
Charlton’s skill paired with better corner depth in the second round sealed the deal.
The defensive line already lost one rusher (Randy Gregory) to suspension, another lineman (DT Terrell McClain) to the Redskins and free agency, and they bring back DeMarcus Lawrence potentially comprised after back surgery this winter for the second consecutive season.
Charlton, they hope, will begin to fill the gap and ramp up pressure on the pass after the team combined for just 36 sacks and 19 fumbles all of last season. The Cowboys are hopeful that the increased pressure will also spread to help the secondary force more takeaways than their nine combined interceptions in 2016.
Is Charlton the key there?
“There are many things to like about him,” Garrett said. “Pedigree. Sack production. Measurables. Basketball background.”
Not to mention his character and demeanor, Stephen said.
“We like what we see,” Stephen said. “He looks like an NFL player when he walks in the door.
“We could have a real good one here.”