2017 NFL Draft Pre-Combine Scouting Report: Taco Charlton

Scouting report for 2017 NFL Draft prospect, defensive end and EDGE player Taco Charlton.

Teams in need of a defensive end will have a chance in the first round to select a player from a big-time Big Ten school in Taco Charlton, who has the size, speed and potential to become more than a one-year starter at the pro level. From the Michigan Wolverines, Charlton came onto the scene this season for a defense that played well at times. Though he’s not the highest rated draft prospect from Michigan, he might just be their best defensive player in the 2017 NFL Draft.

Charlton has the ability to be a mainstay on an NFL defense, and if there is a team that really wants his services, it will most likely cost them a first-round pick in April. In 2016, Charlton played in 11 games for the Wolverines, finishing with 40 tackles (20 solo) with 13.5 of them going for a loss. The defensive end also totaled 10 sacks and two passes defensed.

For his collegiate career, Charlton, who is more suited for a four-man front rather than a three-man defensive front, collected 91 tackles (56 solo) with 28 of those tackles going for a loss and 19 sacks in a total of 33 games.

Teams will need to work on a few parts of Charlton’s game, but that is to be said with any players in any draft. He has the chance to be a productive player for a defense, and if he can get in the correct situation like he had in his final season with Michigan, then he could make some noise in the NFL sooner rather than later.

Nov 19, 2016; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Indiana Hoosiers quarterback Richard Lagow (21) is tackled by Michigan Wolverines defensive end Taco Charlton (33) in the second half at Michigan Stadium. Michigan won 20-10. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Nov 19, 2016; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Indiana Hoosiers quarterback Richard Lagow (21) is tackled by Michigan Wolverines defensive end Taco Charlton (33) in the second half at Michigan Stadium. Michigan won 20-10. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Strengths

Like with many of the defensive ends in this draft, one of the aspects of Charlton’s game that NFL teams will love is his pass rush ability in a four-man front. Charlton railed his game to a higher level during his last four collegiate games against Iowa, Indiana, Ohio State and Florida State. In those four games, Charlton had a combined 5.5 sacks (2.5 against Ohio State) with 22 tackles, including no less than four in any of the final four games he played. Against Indiana and Florida State, he also had one pass defensed in each of those games.

One draft expert who really likes the game Charlton brings to the NFL Draft is Mel Kiper Jr. of ESPN. In his first NFL Mock Draft in mid-January, Kiper had Charlton drafted to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 19th overall. Kiper noted Charlton’s strengths as his leverage despite his height and his “active hands” that complement his “incredible wingspan.”

If Charlton is drafted in the mid-to-late first round, it means he can join a team that is nearly playoff-ready or be a part of a roster that is just a few parts away from being even better than they were a season ago. Charlton has the speed and strength needed to play at a high NFL level, and if paired with some other nice defensive players like the team in Tampa Bay, his overall play could even be better than those drafted ahead of him early on in his career.

So with Charlton, his strength, speed and ability to play better in a four-man line compared to a three-man line seems to work best for him, but he could also play on the outside of a 3-4 look on defense as well.

Nov 28, 2015; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback J.T. Barrett (16) runs the ball against Michigan Wolverines defensive end Taco Charlton (33) during the game against the Michigan Wolverines at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Nov 28, 2015; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback J.T. Barrett (16) runs the ball against Michigan Wolverines defensive end Taco Charlton (33) during the game against the Michigan Wolverines at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Weaknesses

Most of the weaknesses that Charlton has shown during his time at Michigan can be fixed with proper coaching in the NFL. Dane Brugler of CBS Sports wrote this of the defensive end in terms of his most glaring weakness as Charlton enters the NFL Draft:

Late to read the backfield action, leaving him flat-footed and delayed to the ball — too many examples of him guessing wrong and needs to get better in this area.

More film study and work on his technique can fix what ails Charlton. He’ll learn how to read better once in the NFL, and early in his career, teams won’t put him in situations in which he could struggle mightily.

Draft experts have also listed Charlton’s one-year as a starter at Michigan a cause of concern. That fact shouldn’t be as bothersome as the ability to make the proper reads in a quicker fashion. Those two do go hand in hand, though, and with more time this preseason and during the 2017 regular season, plus all the time in training camps and other various camps once drafted, Charlton can begin to work on these fixable weaknesses of his game and work to become a starter in the NFL.

Jan 1, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Michigan Wolverines safety Jarrod Wilson (22) and defensive end Taco Charlton (33) celebrate his interception against the Florida Gators during the second quarter in the 2016 Citrus Bowl at Orlando Citrus Bowl Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Jan 1, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Michigan Wolverines safety Jarrod Wilson (22) and defensive end Taco Charlton (33) celebrate his interception against the Florida Gators during the second quarter in the 2016 Citrus Bowl at Orlando Citrus Bowl Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

NFL Outlook

Though being a first-round grade before the start of the NFL Combine, Charlton still isn’t a complete lock to be a first-round selection, no matter how many mock drafts are made from now until the actual draft takes place.

With Charlton, he does have what the NFL is looking for, and to be honest, his overall skill set of positives outweighs the weaknesses his game currently possesses. The one-year starter label shouldn’t hurt his draft stock too much, but how he performs at the combine can go a long way in helping him rise in the draft. He had a productive final season at Michigan, played in a tough Big Ten and worked his way to a first-round grade.

Besides the aforementioned Buccaneers as a team who could draw interest in Charlton, also look out for the Carolina Panthers, Cincinnati Bengals, Detroit Lions, Miami Dolphins and Dallas Cowboys as other potential teams needing a pass rusher/defensive end during this draft.

Charlton has the high potential to make a name for himself in the league, and remember, usually with defensive ends it does take more than one season to really get the hang of the NFL game. Patience will be key with Charlton, but as he learns, his athletic ability should help him overcome some issues he’ll face early on in the NFL.

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