Dallas Cowboys’ Worst First-Round Draft Pick of Past Decade Named

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones

Getty Cowboys owner Jerry Jones

Taco Charlton wasn’t merely a Dallas Cowboys bust. He was, according to Bleacher Report, the biggest Cowboys bust in distant memory.

The digital media giant, compiling a list for each NFL team, chose the underachieving defensive end as Dallas’ worst draft pick of the past decade.

Via columnist Maurice Moton:

In the second half of his rookie season, Charlton flashed his pass-rushing skills, registering three sacks after Week 7. He opened the following year as a starter but suffered a shoulder injury and missed five games late in the campaign.

In September 2019, the defensive end tweeted “free me,” and the Cowboys pulled the plug on their 2017 first-round investment soon after. Taco signed with the Miami Dolphins and logged more sacks (five) in 10 games with his new team than the club that drafted him (four).

Charlton could put together a strong second act with the Dolphins. Yet, he didn’t show much development in Dallas.

Selected No. 26 overall in 2017, Charlton was hyped as the next great Cowboys pass-rusher following a 19-sack career at Michigan and a college resume highlighted by 2016 first-team All-Big Ten honors. He certainly wasn’t the quickest prospect (4.92 forty time) but flashed enough athleticism and upside to warrant such an investment.

The return on that investment never came.

Charlton continually bumped heads with then-defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli, particularly after an injury-marred, one-sack 2018 campaign. By last offseason, he had plummeted down the depth chart and rumors of his potential release began to swirl.

He saved arguably his finest performance for the preseason, notching three tackles, two sacks, two forced fumbles, a pass deflection and fumble recovery across 19 — nineteen — snaps in Dallas’ 34-0 throttling of the Houston Texans in the regular-season dress rehearsal.

But it was too little, too late. Even Charlton by that point saw the writing plastered on the wall.

“I ain’t done s**t [to earn a roster spot]” he said in his postgame press conference. “I ain’t done nothing. I still have a lot of work to do, a lot of stuff to prove.”

He was right. The Cowboys, having failed to find a trade partner for his services, waived Charlton on Sept. 18, ending a brief yet bitterly disappointing tenure in silver and blue.

“Unfortunately it didn’t work out the way we wanted to,” former head coach Jason Garrett said of his departure. “It will give him an opportunity to go somewhere else and we’ll move on as a team.”

Charlton found a new NFL home in Miami and it appeared the light bulb finally flickered. He totaled more sacks (five) across 10 games with the Dolphins than he did during two-plus years with Big D, adding two forced fumbles and 21 tackles. He even managed to take down Dak Prescott amid a Week 3 meeting of the clubs — a 31-6 Cowboys victory.

Dallas, meanwhile, cut Charlton as a means to promote Robert Quinn, suspended for the first two weeks, to the active roster. Quinn went on to lead the club with 11.5 sacks, dwarfing what Charlton had proved capable of. He subsequently converted the impressive bounceback into a massive five-year, $70 million free-agent contract with the Chicago Bears, who also handed him $30 million fully guaranteed in March.

Charlton remains under the Dolphins’ control for 2020, at a highly manageable $1.832 million base salary. Entering his age-25 season, he’s currently penciled in as a starter for the rebuilding Fish.

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