It’s often said that an NFL player’s third season is typically when they either turn into the star that they’re going to become or remain whatever they are.
Since it’s the year 2019, it means that the Dallas Cowboys draft class of 2017 is staring the all-important third year this season, and that group was of course headlined by defensive end Taco Charlton... who hasn’t exactly set the world on fire in his first two seasons.
Recently The Ringer named Taco Charlton as one of their 10 players that need to break out this season, and there’s a lot riding on the potential of his Cowboys career that is in lock step with that idea.
Charlton underwent two separate surgeries this offseason (one on his shoulder, the other on his ankle) and watched the team hand Demarcus Lawrence a big new deal and trade for Robert Quinn. Combined with recent comments by Cowboys VP of player personnel Will McClay, Charlton’s spot on the team seems tenuous.
”I’m expecting Taco to strap on his pads, put on his helmet, and go out there and compete every day to prove that he belongs on this roster,” McClay said, before adding an ominous follow-up. “We’re not going to hold the train for anybody. … Injuries happen, and all that other stuff. I expect him to go and battle and compete.”
Charlton has length, athleticism, and power. Now he’s got to harness all that and turn it into production.
Cowboys fans are really hard on Charlton, and a lot of that is likely due to the success of the team’s other first-round draft picks this decade. They’ve all been home runs except for Charlton and Morris Claiborne.
Dallas Cowboys first-round draft picks:
- 2011: Tyron Smith
- 2012: Morris Claiborne
- 2013: Travis Frederick
- 2014: Zack Martin
- 2015: Byron Jones
- 2016: Ezekiel Elliott
- 2017: Taco Charlton
- 2018: Leighton Vander Esch
- 2019: traded for Amari Cooper
What’s more on is that the Cowboys have had to spend extra resources in order to rectify their original pick of Charlton. This offseason they traded a future pick for defensive end Robert Quinn, and they spent two of their picks in the draft at the position as well. If Charlton had developed into a legitimate contributor by now you could argue that they could have devoted those resources elsewhere.
Truthfully though Taco is far from the only disappointing pick two years in from the 2017 class,. A lot of the “issues” that circle that draft class have been somewhat self-induced by the Cowboys, but as a group it looks questionable less than a thousand days later.
2017 Dallas Cowboys Draft Class
- 1st Round: Taco Charlton
- 2nd Round: Chidobe Awuzie
- 3rd Round: Jourdan Lewis
- 4th Round: Ryan Switzer
- 6th Round: Xavier Woods
- 6th Round: Marquez White
- 7th Round: Joey Ivie
- 7th Round: Noah Brown
- 7th Round: Jordan Carrell
Xavier Woods looks to be a promising player at least, and there is still a strong hive circling Noah Brown, but other than that this class is average at the absolute best. Chidobe Awuzie is a fine starting cornerback opposite of Byron Jones, but he hasn’t taken the step that many would want. Jourdan Lewis has talent, but he doesn’t meet the physical requirements of Kris Richard who would arrive one year later.
In a way Charlton is emblematic of his entire draft class. A lot of futures are going to be determined throughout the 2019 season for these players, but Taco certainly headlines the group. The Cowboys have remained as optimistic as they can that Randy Gregory will play at some point in 2019, if that does ultimately happen it’s going to be difficult for Charlton to get legitimate playing time as in that world he’s perhaps the team’s fifth-best rusher.
The Cowboys will need to decide if they want to pick up Taco Charlton’s fifth-year option after the 2019 season. That’s still a long time away, but if polled today there would be an overwhelming majority that would pass on Taco.