The Cowboys drafted for defense as expected Thursday, taking Michigan defensive end Taco Charlton with the 28th overall pick in the NFL Draft.
Charlton, who led the Wolverines with 9 1/2 sacks in 2016, is the first defensive end taken in the first round by the Cowboys in 10 years. Pass-rushing is the biggest need for Dallas, which was the top seed in the NFC last season but struggled to pressure the quarterback.
It’s the third time in four years that the Cowboys have taken a defensive end in the first two rounds, but DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory have fallen short of expectations.
Though he was a full-time starter just one season, Charlton was a first-team All-Big Ten selection after collecting 9 1/2 sacks and 13 tackles for loss. At 6-6, 277, Charlton has superior length with 34-inch arms and can wreak havoc up front. He has to be more consistent, so the challenge for the Cowboys defensive staff is to help him develop into an every-down starter.
“He’s got length, he’s got power, he’s got athletic ability. He doesn’t have the twitch,” NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said of Charlton. “What you see on tape is what I saw at the combine where he doesn’t quite have the twitch of an elite edge rusher, so I think he’s more of a base 3-4 end. And there is nothing wrong with that. You can be a good football player that plays eight to ten years in the league.”