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2017 NFL Draft Grades: Mel Kiper Is Hung Up On The Value Of Drafting Taco Charlton At 28

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Coulda, shoulda, woulda drafted Kevin King. Or Budda Baker. Or T.J. Watt. Or ...

Central Michigan v Michigan
Taco Charlton #33 celebrates a win at Michigan Stadium.
Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Mel Kiper of ESPN has posted his grades for the 2017 NFL draft, and he doesn't join the chorus of mostly positive feedback the Cowboys have received for their draft.

In his ranking of teams, Kiper has the Cowboys ranked 21st with a "B-" grade, which is due in large part to the value (or lack thereof) he places on Taco Charlton.

Here is part of what Kiper had to say about the Cowboys draft:

I thought they missed an opportunity at pick No. 28 to get a first-round talent -- Kevin King and Budda Baker were still on the board -- and instead chose Taco Charlton, a 6-foot-6, 277-pound defensive end who is a much better run defender than pass-rusher. Yes, Dallas needed an end after DeMarcus Lawrence underwhelmed last season and Randy Gregory was suspended for at least the 2017 season, but a premier pass-rusher made more sense. I don't think that's Charlton, who is No. 46 on my board.

Like many draft analysts who take their own big board as the one single gold standard, Kiper grades the pick relative to his own evaluation of each draft prospect, without considering either team needs, scheme fit, or the distribution of talent in the draft.

Needless to say, the Cowboys don't care where a player is ranked on Kiper's board. According to numerous reports, the Cowboys only had one player with a first-round grade (running back Dalvin Cook) left on their board when they picked Charlton, so they did pretty well by their own reckoning.

Of course, the same applies in reverse: just because many draft analysts had a player like Xavier Woods graded fairly high doesn't necessarily mean the Cowboys got a steal when they picked him with the 191st pick in the sixth round. After all, 31 other teams thought he wasn't worth more than that 191st pick.

Even without mentioning Woods, Kiper has a much more positive take on the Cowboys' remaining picks:

Dallas' Day 2 was much better. Chidobe Awuzie, the best tackling corner in this draft, and Jourdan Lewis, likely a slot corner, will play early and often. Lewis is facing misdemeanor domestic violence charges, however. Ryan Switzer wasn't in my top 300, but I can see why teams like him. At 5-8, 181, he's tiny, but he's a great punt returner. I do wonder how Dallas will get both him and Cole Beasley on the field together. Noah Brown was much higher on my board (168) than where he went (239).

At the end of the day, complaining about draft grades is a exercise in futility, and Kiper's grade is far from terrible anyway.

But Kiper's take highlights a fundamental flaw with many post-draft assessments of "winners" and "losers", where the starting point of the analysis is a one-size-fits-all big board that's used to judge 32 different schemes, needs, and draft strategies.

Cowboys fans can take some comfort in the fact that five of the Cowboys' draft picks were ranked 68th or better on the Cowboys' board. Some have taken this to mean those five players were second-round or borderline second-round prospects. But it's important to keep in mind what that 68th pick actually means on a Cowboys board.

  • In 2016, the Cowboys only had 66 players with first, second, or third-round grades.
  • In 2013, the 68th player was the last player with a third-round grade.
  • In 2010, the third-round grade extended to the 71st player.

By itself, that's not necessarily a bad thing. But it's worth keeping in mind that while it's easy for us to dismiss what we perceive as bad news (in the form of a bad draft grade) its just as easy to overvalue a piece of seemingly good news.

Of course, you could also just lean back and smile at all of this. After all, we still remember that Mel Kiper gave Dallas a "C" after last year's draft, and changed that to an "A-" in March this year.

More of that, please.