Dallas Cowboys
Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Cowboys selected Taco Charlton 28th overall in the 2017 NFL Draft. Should they have taken T.J. Watt?

In the 2017 NFL Draft, the Dallas Cowboys, in need of a pass rusher, selected defensive end Taco Charlton out of Michigan 28th overall. They should’ve taken LB T.J. Watt out of Wisconsin, who was taken two picks later by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Let me explain why.

Charlton vs Watt statistics comparisons

In 27 games (only 7 starts) for the Cowboys, Charlton has four career sacks, 46 total tackles, eight tackles for loss, and 11 quarterback hits. He’s also forced one fumble and recovered a fumble.

In 31 games (all starts) for the Steelers, Watt has 20 career sacks, 120 total tackles, 22 tackles for loss, and 34 quarterback hits. He’s also forced seven fumbles and caught an interception. Watt was also selected to the Pro Bowl last year. When looking at these numbers on paper, drafting Charlton was a clear mistake for the Cowboys. But the numbers don’t do justice to how wide the gap really is between these two players.

Despite being 6-foot-6, 270 lbs, Charlton appears a little thin for a defensive lineman. He constantly gets pushed around and is widely a non-factor. The few plays that he has made have come when the offensive lineman blew his assignment and he came in unblocked.

Watt is a game disruptor and an impact player for the Steelers defense. Despite being a linebacker, he accumulated 13 sacks last year on his way to a stellar Pro Bowl season. He is constantly involved in the play and opposing offenses have to game plan for him.

Charlton’s perception within the Cowboys organization

Of the Cowboys’ last six first-round draft picks, Charlton is the lone selection that hasn’t made the Pro Bowl. His lack of production is widely known within the organization. Cowboys executive vice president had this to say about Charlton last week  on 105.3 The Fan [KRLD-FM]:

“Taco obviously hasn’t made his way into the starting lineup yet. He had a (shoulder) injury last year, which set him back. He didn’t necessarily come back as strong as he did before he got hurt. So, this is a big year for Taco to step up. We certainly need him with our defensive front.”

The Cowboys organization is looking for Charlton to finally step up this season and live up to his first-round pick status. He will have to battle for playing time with veterans Robert Quinn, Christian Covington, and Kerry Hyder, who were signed this offseason to account for Randy Gregory‘s suspension and Charlton’s lack of performance. From a talent standpoint, none of these veterans possess Charlton’s skill set. Quinn is Taco’s biggest competition and should serve as a great mentor.

Now that Charlton has had offseason shoulder surgery in January, he is 100 percent healthy. This upcoming season needs to be a breakout year for him or else he won’t be on the Cowboys much longer. A player at his size and with his quickness should not be as invisible as he appears on the field. The Cowboys haven’t given up on him yet, but his leash is getting shorter and their patience is growing thin.