Position: Defensive End
School: University of Michigan
Weight: 272 lbs.
Taco Charlton brings a level of athleticism to the table that most teams would take note of in this year’s draft class. The Packers are in dire need of some speed and playmaking ability in the front seven, and Charlton certainly possesses those qualities in abundance. Charlton can use his quickness to get around the edge and has improved considerably in his pass-rushing ability in his junior and senior years.
It is not unrealistic to think that the arrival of Jim Harbaugh to Ann Arbor accelerated that growth, but the young man deserves credit for transitioning from being solely a special teams player his freshman year, to becoming a legitimate pass rushing threat for the Wolverines defense. Also, while his skills are much more finely tuned in getting after the quarterback, he has shown ability to be a capable run defender.
Considering the multitude of big running plays that were given up by the Packers this past season, the ability to keep the edge and contain the more potent running backs from busting big runs would be a welcome improvement. Over the past year, there has been so much talk about the speed of the Packers defense. Taco Charlton would immediately make this defense faster.
The big knock on Charlton has been his consistency at Michigan. Of the film that I’ve watched, there are impressive moments that get a fan excited, but there are also plenty of snaps where you wonder where the energy is. That should be a concerning to a fan base that consistently saw defenders have one or two great plays a game and nothing more.
Besides Mike Daniels, there is no player in the Packers front seven that consistently gives opposing offensive coordinators headaches. Whether Charlton can offer that consistency is yet to be seen. Again, his improvement under Harbaugh has been impressive, but it’s difficult to be optimistic that his improvement would continue under the current Packers defensive system.
How He Fits
Assuming Dom Capers and his 3-4 scheme are still in place in Green Bay and Charlton gets picked, I would love to see him and Daniels flanking Kenny Clark on the line. Also, the decision to go after a defensive end like Charlton will be influenced by whether or not Datone Jones is brought back this offseason. If he is not, then depth at defensive end becomes that much more paramount. If Charlton proves to be a dynamic pass rusher off the edge, then this Packers defense is already markedly better than last year’s squad.
If one spends his or her free time looking through mock drafts constructed less than a week after the season ends (guilty), then you’ll have seen that most of them have Taco Charlton going earlier than where the Packers sit at 29. However, as of right now, the scouting combine hasn’t taken place, and as much as I don’t believe the combine should greatly affect a player’s draft stock, it usually does. If the current view on his high ceiling holds, then I would be surprised if he falls to the end of the first round. But we’ve got two and a half months until Roger Goodell starts getting booed again, and much can and will happen. Stay tuned.