Todd Archer breaks down the Dallas Cowboys' 2017 draft class.
Round 1, No. 28 overall: Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan
My take: The Cowboys have made no secret about their desire to improve their pass rush. That was their hope in 2016, 2015 and 2014. It will be their hope in 2018 as well even with the selection of Charlton on Thursday. They have not had a player reach double digits in sacks since Jason Hatcher in 2013. Last year, Benson Mayowa led the Cowboys in sacks with just six. In 2015, DeMarcus Lawrence led the Cowboys in sacks with eight. Charlton had 9.5 sacks last year at Michigan in his lone season as a full-time starter. He is not DeMarcus Ware, whom the Cowboys signed to a ceremonial deal at the start of the week. Ware was an athletic freak who became the franchise’s all-time leader in sacks. Charlton joins a defensive end rotation that includes Benson Mayowa, DeMarcus Lawrence, Tyrone Crawford and David Irving with Charles Tapper, a draft pick last year who did not play a snap because of a back injury. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, the Cowboys generated pressure just 23 percent of the time on opponent dropbacks last season, which was third worst in the NFL. Charlton will raise that percentage this year.
Tipping their hand: Once again the Cowboys' pre-draft visits served as a true indicator as to who they would pick. Since 2004, Ware (2005) and Morris Claiborne (2012) are the Cowboys' only first-round picks who did not visit with the team before the draft. Charlton was one of the Cowboys’ 29 national visitors. Seven players who visited the Cowboys before the draft were picked before No. 28. Charlton said he hit it off immediately with defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli and assistant defensive line coach Leon Lett. Marinelli’s first question to Charlton: Are you ready to work? They knew the answer to that question after visiting with him earlier in the month.
What about the corner? The Cowboys lost Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne in free agency to the Baltimore Ravens and New York Jets, respectively. They signed Nolan Carroll to join Orlando Scandrick and Anthony Brown, but had 12 cornerbacks visit before the draft. When they picked, they still had the chance to take Washington cornerback Kevin King, who is long and aggressive and plays with the same kind of chip on his shoulder as Scandrick. Ultimately the Cowboys went with the pass-rusher, showing they believe a pass rush makes a secondary rather than vice versa. But as they look to the second round, don’t be surprised if they pick up a cornerback then.
What’s next? As the Cowboys look to their second- and third-round picks at Nos. 60 and 92 overall, there is no reason to think of anything other than defense, even with Charlton as their first-round pick. The last time the Cowboys selected defensive players with their top three picks came in 2012, when they drafted Claiborne in the first round, Tyrone Crawford in the third round and Kyle Wilber in the fourth round.