The Dallas Cowboys invested 7 draft picks into their defense during the 2017 draft. Of the 7 defensive players selected, 5 of them are still associated with the Cowboys organization, and 4 of them are still on the active roster. Its not uncommon to whiff completely on a drafted player, some draft picks never even see the football field. Others can take years before they make the transformation into a productive player on a roster. There is no guarantee that value will come out of a draft pick, let alone immediate impact within the player’s rookie season. However, that is what has happened within the Cowboys’ 2017 defense. 57% of the Cowboys drafted defensive players are seeing the field each week, and that alone is impressive. It has not always been pretty, and development of high round draft picks such as Taco Charlton, and Chidobe Awuzie has taken longer than anticipated. However, 12 games into the season these players are showing they have quite a way to go before hitting their respective ceilings.
Taco Charlton, DE ( Round 1 Pick 28)
Though it hasn’t been the most dynamic rookie season for Charlton, at least he’s been available. Of the 12 games played so far this season Taco has played in every one of them. While he has only accrued 13 combined tackles on the season (not an ideal number for a defensive end) , he did record his second sack of the season Thursday night against the Redskins. While it is undeniable that Charlton’s play has not lived up to the expectations of a first round pick, it is far too early to write him off as a bust. It took NFL sack-leader Demarcus Lawrence 4 years to turn in the statistical season he is having in 2017. Only time will tell on Charlton. And hey, 2 sacks is better than 0.
Chidobe Awuzie, CB ( Round 2, Pick 60)
Hamstrings. Hamstrings are whats keeping Chidobe Awuzie on the sidelines in 2017, and making a thorough analysis of his play difficult. Awuzie has only played in 6 games this season, recording 10 combined tackles and 3 passes-defensed. However, Thursday against the Redskins Awuzie got the starting nod at corner and did not disappoint. He recorded 3 passes-defensed and 3 combined tackles. The Cowboys brought in Awuzie largely for his competitive and physical nature displayed in college. So far in his first start at corner on the season, Awuzie has capitalized on his opportunity.
Jourdan Lewis (Round 3 Pick 92)
Lewis has played in 11 of the 12 possible games to start his NFL career. While he has had his struggles, particularly earlier in the season, Lewis has done more than his fair share through 11 games with 38 combined tackles, 6 passes-defensed, and an interception. While it wasn’t his collegiate play that dropped him to pick 92 in the draft ( but a domestic violence accusation), Dallas has benefited from his play so far. Regarded as one of the best cover corners in the nation during his time at Michigan, Lewis’ future seems bright for the Cowboys. He is the only rookie defensive back through 12 games with more than 3 passes-defensed.
Xavier Woods ( Round 6 Pick 191)
Obviously the later in the draft a player is drafted, the lower the expectations moving forward. 30 combined tackles, 3 passes-defensed, and an interception isn’t a bad contribution from the 191st player selected in the draft. While it seems Woods won’t have the ball-hawk career he did during his tenure at Louisiana Tech, the Cowboys hope his ball skills will come into player more as he is put into different situations/rotations where he can truly utilize his athleticism. He has been around the ball a considerable amount, indicating that Woods has good instincts. If thats the case, its only a matter of time before the interceptions begin to add up for Xavier Woods.
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