1. Taco Charlton Hate. Yep, I saw it Thursday night at The Maverick Bar, our boss Mike Fisher’s favorite watering hole. And the reaction in the immediate 24 hours after the Cowboys made Charlton the first-round pick was definitely split into two camps -- like and hate. And some of the hate was overwhelming.
And in this case the Cowboys just can’t win. Fans have been begging the Cowboys for months to upgrade the defense. They really didn’t throw a whole lot of weight behind that in free agency, so the assumption was that the Cowboys would seek that in the draft. They did. They took Charlton in an attempt to upgrade the pass rush. And fans lose their minds because it’s not the guy THEY want? Of course. That’s football. That’s being a football fan. That’s understandable.
It doesn’t help that the Cowboys passed on a player that many, including our Matt Galatzan, thought was the right guy to take at No. 28 — T.J. Watt. He ended up in Pittsburgh and, to be frank, that’s the perfect landing spot for a player I felt was a 3-4 pass rushing outside linebacker. It doesn’t help that the Cowboys likely lost out on Takk McKinley of UCLA because the Falcons leapfrogged them two picks early. It didn’t help that the Cowboys admitted that they left a player with a first-round grade on their board to take Charlton (our Mike Fisher has the scoop and breakdown on how the Cowboys got Charlton Thursday night, including the identity of that first-round grade).
It was not the player I was expecting. I thought it would be Alabama’s Reuben Foster or Michigan State’s Malik McDowell. So give it a read to get the rationale behind the pick.
For the record, I had Charlton as a first-round pick in my second Cowboys 7-round mock, but cooled to him a bit because he’s still an unfinished product. But now he’s a Cowboy. So here’s the good, in my opinion.
He fits the mold of a 4-3 defensive end at 6-foot-6, 277 pounds. My issue with Watt was that I felt he was just too small for the position (listed at 252 pounds). Charlton improved every year at Michigan and really flourished under the coaching of Jim Harbaugh at this staff. The guy appears tough, too, hearing that he played all of 2016 with a high ankle sprain and still had 9.5 sacks (remember Randy Gregory sat with that injury for a month in 2015). Now here’s the bad, in my opinion.
He was only a full-time starter one year in college. He definitely needs to improve his pass rush repertoire. I saw some inconsistent effort on tape. His measurables aren’t great.
But here’s the thing. At No. 28 you’re not going to get a “War Daddy” (as Jerry Jones puts it), at least not right off the bat. There are plenty of defensive ends that have been taken late in the first round that have grown into great players, but it took time. I think part of the reaction to Charlton’s selection was rooted in him joining a 13-3 team poised to take the next step toward a Super Bowl and hoping the Cowboys would get a player that would make a seismic impact in 2016, similar to what Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott did last year. Well that’s like catching lightning in a bottle and teams don’t encounter that on a yearly basis, much less getting two of those guys in one draft.
If you’re picking late in the first round you’re betting as much on potential as you are on impact in Year 1. Guys taken in the first round are expected to play. Charlton will. He’ll compete for a starting job, but I’m not sure he gets one right off the bat. He likely ends up in the rotation, plays 30-35 plays per game and adds to what the Cowboys have up front. It’s up to him and the coaching staff to turn him into something that might produce 7-10 sacks per season.
I think he has that potential. I think he has a good foundation. The Cowboys reached a bit based on the player’s grade. But they needed help on the edge. Perhaps Charlton can be that. But try not to get worked up if it doesn’t happen right away. The bad thing about Elliott’s and Prescott’s huge seasons last year is that they’ve raised the expectation bar for a player like Charlton and he doesn’t deserve that.
He’s not a slam dunk but he’s not a lost cause either. And if you look at what these Cowboys have done in the first round the past few years, they deserve the benefit of the doubt. So does Charlton.
By the way, it looks like the Cowboys have Charlton’s diet covered.
Taco, I think Taco Bueno is on Line 2. Or is that Taco Bell? Or do we just go back to The Maverick Bar, which by 11 p.m. Thursday night was already serving "War Daddy Tacos''?
2. The Cowboys got better at corner with Chidobe Awuzie of Colorado.
That said, I would have had no problem had Dallas taken Cordrea Tankersley out of Clemson. Awuzie was a two-time All Pac-12 selection who played in the slot and on the edge for the Buffaloes, so the Cowboys probably liked that versatility. He addresses a key need for this defense in pass coverage and he could be a part of their rotation right away. Plus, he’s not hurt and doesn’t appear to be an off-field issue, so maybe — fingers crossed — he’ll play in 2017. The Cowboys have struggled to keep second-round picks on the field lately (more on that later).
I saw him play twice last year against Stanford and against Arizona. In both games their defensive coordinator, Jim Leavitt, used him in various ways, including as a blitzing defensive back. He had seven sacks in college. I wonder if Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli looked at his tape and saw a little Ronde Barber in him, the former Bucs corner who excelled as an outside and slot corner in Tampa Bay? Could be. I like the versatility. There may be some rough edges to file down when it comes to zone coverage and tackling. He also didn’t have many interceptions in college. But the Cowboys developed Anthony Brown, a sixth-rounder, nicely last year and Awuzie might be more talented.
Just so you know …
That’s “baller” B-A-L-L-E-R. Baller. And, as we learned, his nickname is Cheeto. So he and Taco have the opportunity to really corner the DFW snack food endorsement market.
3. Early in the second round, Jourdan Lewis was the highest-ranked player on ESPN’s big board. From there he took a precipitous drop to No. 92 and the Cowboys’ third-round pick. His drop was based purely on a misdemeanor domestic violence charge for which he faces a July 24 court date in Michigan, which oddly is the first day of Cowboys training camp.
Lewis was one of three players in this draft that had or were facing some sort of domestic violence/sexual assault history or charge. The others were Oklahoma’s Joe MIxon, taken in the second round by Cincinnati, and Ohio State’s Gareon Conley, taken by Oakland in the first round. I find it odd that Lewis was the one that dropped into the third round.
Some scouts considered Lewis the best pure corner in the draft. He can play in the slot, certainly, as Fish pointed out above. He was a bit more of a playmaker at Michigan than Awuzie was at Colorado. When a player like Lewis falls to the third round, you have to think about taking him. The court date worries me (as does the information around the incident, which sounds much more serious than the Ezekiel Elliott incident last year). So if the legal issues aren’t issues, Lewis could be of immediate help to the Cowboys, pending the off-field legal case and any NFL investigation that might lead to a suspension.
But if you wanted a play-making corner, we’ll there’s this.
Yeah, Cowboys fans could get use to that a few times a year.
4. Ryan Switzer is going to make this football team come September. The Cowboys took the versatile wide receiver and returner with their fourth-round pick. Immediately, there were comparisons to Cole Beasley. And those are justified. But Switzer comes to the Cowboys with more polish than Beasley did as a rookie. He has the same can-do attitude, production and return ability that Beasley showed at SMU, too. But I think it’s Lucky Whitehead that has the most to worry about right now. Whitehead had a solid season as a returned in 2016, but the Cowboys may be looking for an upgrade and Switzer could be that guy. I really like the pick, though there were defensive players on the board that I would have been just as satisfied to see the Cowboys take.
In both of those games Switzer not only showed me versatility but the right attitude, one the Cowboys will like. He’ll do anything for you, plays with emotion and empties the tank every time he plays.
5. You wanted Xavier Woods, Cowboys Nation? Well, you got him. Some Cowboys fans wanted Woods to come to Dallas as early as the third round. That shows you how hard it is to find a college safety who comes to the pro game with tangible pass coverage skills. Woods has 14 interceptions at Louisiana Tech. When I saw him in person against Navy I was quite impressed. He had eight tackles in that game. Most safeties struggle in pass coverage when they migrate to the NFL. In this case, Woods’ struggles might come in defending the run. But the Cowboys need more turnovers and they need more pass breakups, and Woods can do both. He can make up for the learning curve against the run by creating havoc right away.
The Cowboys dealt a fifth-rounder in 2018 to move up to get Woods, so they were clearly worried he would disappear. The Ticket’s Bob Sturm made a good point on Twitter — the Cowboys are likely to replace that with a compensatory pick, based on what they lost in free agency.
As for the Cowboys’ remaining draft selections, they did some trading and ended up with four more selections after Woods:
CB Marquez White, Florida State: Not a player I saw in person last season, but he adds to the Cowboys’ burgeoning cornerback depth. The scouting reports I read after the pick indicates that he’s a player that will need plenty of coaching to refine his raw skills, which isn’t unusual in the sixth round.
DT Joey Ivie, Florida: A 300-pounder who can help stop the run inside. He’s limited to that, though. He may have a hard time making the team. But he has a heartbreaking back story. His sister, Jordan, died in his arms after an April 2015 car accident. His brother, Andrew, gave up football for medical reasons.
WR Noah Brown, Ohio State: An extremely raw receiving prospect that will probably have a hard time making the roster, even with his obvious talent. Missed most of 2015 with a leg injury. Played WR, H-Back and special teams at Ohio State. So the versatility was probably enticing.
DT Jordan Carrell, Colorado: I saw Colorado twice last year and Carrell stuck out. At 290 pounds, he’s stout enough to stop the run and strong enough to get penetration on passing downs. Intriguing. I’m interested to see how he competes.
My overall draft grade is B+. If Charlton were a little more refined, I'd move it into the A category. But there is plenty to like about this draft and I see five players that can — and should help — immediately. For scouting reports on all the Cowboys draftees, click here.
6. Orlando Scandrick may not be long for the Cowboys. Which I think is a mistake, even though the Cowboys invested heavily in the secondary in this draft. Our Mike Fisher was the first to get reaction from Scandrick on the trade rumors after the start of the third round, which were reported by NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport. Scandrick confirmed to Fish the rumors were true.
Here’s the thing. I know Scandrick’s play fell off last year. But his cap price is pretty reasonable and there’s no guarantee that the corners the Cowboys selected this weekend will pan out immediately. Having a savvy vet like Scandrick on the roster makes a heck of a lot of sense in the short term.
Now, Jerry Jones was adamant the rumors weren’t true and said he would talk with Scandrick. But it’s difficult to put that genie back in the bottle. If the Cowboys did indeed pursue trading Scandrick on Friday night, they did so foolishly. For a team that has struggled to maintain its depth on defense the past few years, dangling one of its best assets as trade bait probably wasn’t their best move.
7. Drew Pearson is the MAN. You know why.
Yeah, that’s gonna come up when the Cowboys go to Philly for the season finale. Drew just guaranteed himself heavy rotation in Philly sports radio that week. Well played, Mr. Pearson. Well played.
8. Tweet of the Week
If you’ve never seen 'The League' I’m not sure I want to know you. But here’s the synopsis behind this perfect tweet, courtesy of tvfanatic.com:
When Taco steals the domain name from the Dallas Cowboys website, the gang gets to go to Dallas Cowboys training camp with him while he negotiates its sale back to the owner (played by real-life Cowboys owner Jerry Jones). Once everyone returns home, nothing can stop the fantasy draft--not even Jenny giving birth to the baby she and Kevin conceived at the end of season three.
Yes, it’s as absurd — and as awesome — as it sounds.
9. We will dispense with Great Moments in Headline Porn this week to make room for Randy Gregory. Gregory reportedly tested positive for a seventh time for marijuana, as reported by TMZ Sports. Worse yet, the same report noted that Gregory has blown off NFL officials. (Fish has more info here in CHQ Premium).
He’s already suspended for the 2017 season. I wouldn’t be surprised if he never plays another game for the Cowboys. He has larger issues to deal with than football. The Cowboys clearly guessed wrong on whether Gregory could kick this habit and stay on the field. But that’s on Gregory and not on the Cowboys. At some point, you have to take responsibility for yourself, no matter your off-the-field problems.
10. One More Thing ….
Jaylon Smith will participate in Cowboys rookie mini-camp. So now we begin the road to finding out if the 2016 Draft was merely excellent or next-level Dirty Dozen, as in the Cowboys’ 1975 Draft. That year the Cowboys kept 12 rookies — DT Randy White, LB Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson, OG Burton Lawless, LB Bob Bruenig, OT Pat Donovan, DB Randy Hughes, C Kyle Davis, DB Rolly Woolsey, LB Mike Hegman, P Mitch Hoopes, OG Herbert Scott and RB Scott Laidlaw. Many of these guys helped bridge the gap between the Bob Lilly Cowboys and the Tony Dorsett Cowboys, if you’re thinking about eras. The 2016 Draft could be just as good, if on a smaller scale.
By the way, the Cowboys signed Jim Zorn as an undrafted free-agent that season. Jim freaking Zorn. I totally forgot about that. And along those lines, stay tuned ... Later, here, we'll have Dallas' complete UDFA signings.