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Cowboys 2017 Draft: Why Doubts About Taco Charlton’s Athleticism Are Overblown

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A look at why Taco Charlton may be more athletic than you think.

Central Michigan v Michigan Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The story on the newest Dallas Cowboy, Taco Charlton, is pretty well calcified at this point. Great frame (6-6, 277) and length (34+ inch arms), a well-rounded, powerful player who shows some intriguing pass-rush technique but he doesn’t quite have the explosive, quick-twitch burst off the ball that so many Cowboys fans desire. He didn’t run a 4.53 like Jordan Willis, a 4.65 like Tyus Bowser, a 4.69 like T.J. Watt, so it’s a little bit of a letdown at 28th overall, right?

Think again.

Take a look at these workout numbers for two current NFL players, compared to Charlton:

Height Weight Arms Hands 40 YD Vertical Broad 3-cone SS
Taco Charlton 6-6 277 34 1⁄4 9 3⁄4 4.92 33 116 7.17 4.39
Player A 6-5 266 35 1⁄2 9 3⁄4 4.87 35 120 7.07 4.38
Player B 6-5 269 33 1⁄2 10 1⁄4 4.86 32 120 6.89 4.21

Extremely similar physical dimensions and workout numbers between all three players. Who do you think those other two are?

I’ll let you know at the end of the article, but here’s a hint, they were both drafted in the first round within the last five years and both have had at least one season with double-digit sacks.

Before we get to that though let’s move on to some of the great statistical analysis done by our very own OCC, which intersected SPARQ scores with a player’s production ratio. This analysis quantified Charlton as a “Quadrant A” player, and what is Quadrant A? I’ll let OCC explain it:

The A quadrant (top right) is where you should find the players most likely to succeed at the NFL level. They have a strong track record of production and have the pre-requisite athleticism that should allow them to compete at the NFL level. Six defensive ends from this year's draft class populate this quadrant, which makes this a solid DE draft class.

The other five “Quadrant A” players were BTB favorite Jordan Willis, Tarell Basham, my personal favorite in the second-round (before the Charlton pick), Trey Hendrickson, Derek Rivers, and Hunter Dimick.

And then there’s this from Ryan Ramczyk, the Wisconsin left tackle that the New Orleans Saints selected with the 32nd pick last night:

When asked to name his most difficult opponent, Wisconsin tackle Ryan Ramczyk thought for a second and then said, “Taco Charlton at Michigan. He’s a quick pass rusher and he backs it up with power. It was a good challenge.’’

Here’s some video evidence from their 2016 match-up:

Spin Move vs. Ramczyk
Spin Move vs. Ramczyk - Run Game

Pretty decent spin move for a near 280 lb. defensive end to leave a first-round left tackle lunging wouldn’t you say?

And just for fun, take a look at this play from the Ohio St. game, which was perhaps Charlton’s best of the year on the biggest stage:

Tackles Curtis Samuel for No Gain

That’s Curtis Samuel, a 4.31 40 running back/receiver that Charlton tracks down on a jet sweep.

How’s that for athleticism?

Oh, and those two unnamed players mentioned earlier with the oddly similar size and workout numbers?

Player A is Chandler Jones, a guy with nearly 50 sacks over five seasons who just signed an $80+ million extension to play 3-4 OLB with the Arizona Cardinals.

Player B is Joey Bosa, the 2016 Defensive Rookie of the Year, who put up 10.5 sacks in just 12 games.

This isn’t to say that Charlton will win Rookie of the Year, consistently put up double-digit sacks or make several Pro Bowls, the point is that workout numbers are an important part of the process, but they aren’t what define the process.

Charlton will never be an explosive speed demon off the edge, but there is a very good chance that the Cowboys just got a well-rounded, high-floor, yet still-higher ceiling defensive end who should be a mainstay on the line for years to come.