2017 NFL Draft Player Profiles: Michigan OLB Taco Charlton

From now until the 2017 NFL Draft takes place, we hope to showcase as many prospects as possible and examine both their strengths and weaknesses. Most of these profiles will feature individuals that the Pittsburgh Steelers are likely to have an interest in, while a few others will be top-ranked players. If there is a player you would like us to analyze, let us know in the comments below.

Taco Charlton/EDGE/Michigan — 6’6”, 272 Lbs

The Good

-Converts speed to power very well
-Low pad level as a rusher despite size
-Comfortable playing on either side of the defense
-Good athlete in space with fluid movement and explosion
-Above-average motor that runs hot snap to snap
-Well conditioned athlete the can be every down player
-Showed continuous improvement in four years at Michigan
-Displayed killer instinct late in season to take over games in fourth quarter

The Bad

-Limited hand usage as a pass rusher
-Doesn’t seem to have a plan snap to snap on how to best attack OL
-Lets blockers get into his body and struggles to disengage
-Inconsistent with get-off
-Slow at setting up pass rush moves, if at all
-Very small arsenal of rush moves
-Only one season as a full-time starter

The Bio

-Three-year letterman with the Wolverines
-Appeared in 46 games, making 15 starts at defensive end
-All-Big Ten honoree and 2016 first team as voted on by coaches and media
-Finished Michigan career with 94 tackles, 28 tackles for loss and 19 sacks

Tape Breakdown:

It’s very clear early on when watching Michigan’s Taco Charlton that’s he’s a very raw athlete playing defensive end for the Wolverines, but he’s one with an incredibly high ceiling and some serious pro tools to work with.

At 6’6”, Charlton looks more like a tight end than a defensive end, but with his long arms and impressive lower body athleticism, the three-time letterman at Michigan became a serious pass rushing threat under the watchful eye of Jim Harbaugh and defensive line coach Greg Mattison.

If you recall, Mattison was the defensive line coach at Notre Dame when Justin Tuck was there. Charlton compares favorably to Tuck early in his career.

That being said though, Charlton is still extremely raw despite playing in 46 career games at Michigan (15 starts). Although a serious problem as a pass rusher, Chartlon really struggled against the run through his career due to his inability to consistently get off blocks to make stops, along with his tendency to guess on plays, putting him out of position to make a play.

However, when Charlton is locked in against the run, he flashes in a big way and shows just how good of an athlete he is.

Right at the snap Charlton is able to get penetration up the field to blow up the jet sweep for Ohio State’s Curtis Samuel, who is an explosive athlete in his own right.

By getting up the field quickly against the run, Charlton is able to beat the blocker and then make the big stop in space against a jitterbug.

He moves well laterally thanks to his lower body athleticism, which comes in handy here against Samuel.

There are times though where he just gets washed out against the run, which shows me that he needs to add some muscle to his lower body to be able to hold up against the run in the NFL.

On top of that, he has to do a better job of disengaging from his blocker to find the football and make the stop. There are times where he does a great job of stacking up the blocker, stringing out the run while setting the edge, but when he’s in position to make the stop he simply can’t get off the block.

He’s a major work in progress as a run defender, but if his four years at Michigan are any indication, he’ll get better and better as he matures.

As a pass rusher though, the tools are clearly there, it’s all about honing in on what he does best and making that nearly unstoppable.

Despite having an inconsistent get-off, Charlton chews up a lot of ground off the ball thanks to his long strides, which puts him in an advantageous position against most offensive tackles.

This past season against Wisconsin’s Ryan Ramczyk and Florida State’s Roderick Johnson, two potential first-round draft picks, Charlton really displayed his superior speed and athleticism on the edge, but when the offensive tackles were able to adjust to that, he had limited success turning the corner.

On tape, it appears as though Charlton doesn’t have a plan when rushing the passer. He has a quick spin move, but he doesn’t really have a clue as to how to set it up, which makes it easy for tackles to block it.

That’s against Ramczyk, who has just one year of experience as a starter in the Power 5, yet he’s able to handle Charlton’s move relatively easy.

If Taco could learn how to set up his spin move with his speed, athleticism and improved hand usage at the point of attack, he’d be nearly unblockable. That though alone has me pondering just how great he can be at the next level.

Even when he has to lean heavily on his speed and athleticism around the edge, he often gets great results.

This past season against Ohio State on the road late in the year, Charlton simply dominated the second half for the Wolverines, constantly putting pressure on J.T. Barrett.

While he’s incredibly tall, Charlton is able to explode off the ball, keeping his pads low while dipping and ripping under the Ohio State right tackle’s attempted block.

Once he pulls off the dip and rip, you can see the elite athleticism to bend around the edge and finish off the play.

When not getting a great jump off the ball, Charlton has flashed the ability to convert speed to power, but that seemed to sort of disappear from his game in 2016.

Once he realizes he can’t beat the tackle around the edge, Charlton is determined to just bull through him, pushing the tackle in the quarterback’s lap, leading to a QB hit for the Michigan product.

By staying low and locking out against the tackle, Charlton is able to control the Northwestern tackle, putting him on skates into the backfield.

Overall, Charlton should have teams excited about his ability to rush the passer with surprising consistency despite a limited arsenal of moves. But by seeing what he does on tape it’s clear he’s a very moldable rusher that has some very impressive tools to work with moving forward.

That being said though, the area that could really hold him back from his vast potential is his struggles against the run. If he can figure that area out at a consistent level, he’ll be an every-down player in the NFL that should make multiple trips to Pro Bowls.

Projection:  Mid-to-Late Day One

Games Watched:  vs. Northwestern (’15), vs. Penn State (’16), vs. Wisconsin (’16), at Rutgers (’16), at Ohio State (’16), vs. Florida State (’16)

Previous 2017 NFL Draft Player Profiles
Deshaun WatsonHaason ReddickMarshon LattimoreCorey ClementTim Williams
Jourdan LewisTakkarist McKinleyBrad KaayaNathan PetermanO.J. Howard
Charles HarrisAlvin KamaraTyus BowserDavid NjokuDeMarcus Walker
Chidobe AwuzieDeShone KizerMarlon MackCameron SuttonZach Cunningham
Corey DavisCarl LawsonPatrick MahomesKareem HuntEvan Engram
Derek RiversRyan AndersonJoshua DobbsJordan LeggettSamaje Perine
Corn ElderBucky HodgesJames ConnerCooper KuppStanley Williams
Fred RossJamaal WilliamsGeorge KittleEjuan PriceChris Wormley
Jeremy McNicholsJoe MathisDerek BarnettAmba Etta-TawoGareon Conley

  • Jaybird

    This guy looks like he needs to spend some serious time in the weight room. He’s look s too thin to play 3-4 end for us.

  • Jaybird

    We could pick up Duke IheNacho as a free agent and draft Taco. Add in Victor Cruise for some salsa and we’d have ourselves a fiesta.

  • Michael James

    If he can learn how to time the snap a bit better and improves his pass rushing moves, he will become an All-Pro.
    I just hope Jon Ledyard doesn’t read this article Matthew. If he sees that you think of Roderick Johnson as a potential first-rounder, he will have a heart attack (Ledyard says he is borderline undraftable) 😉

  • francesco

    “A limited arsenal of moves” I believe you are referring to James Harrison!

  • Steelers12

    i want him

  • Brian Tollini

    I’ve only been following the NFL Draft closely for about 15 years but he is one of the better Mexican-food named athletes I have ever watched.

  • Jason

    I would assume he’d be converted to olb.

  • Jason

    All I know is that as a Buckeye fan I was sure sick of hearing this guys name called in the season finale vs Michigan. Killed us all day.

  • falconsaftey43

    Tons of potential. I worry a bit about his get off from a 2 point stance due to his height. Not that worried about his run defense. He’s big and has good length, should be able learn to shed better. Yet another quality option at pick 30.

  • RickM

    Thanks for specifically mentioning Ramcyck and Johnson, two potential first-round O-linemen. I love to know how these OLB prospects do against guality linemen because that’s what they’ll face every week in the NFL. It sounds like another fast guy, with limited moves, whose speed can be adjusted to by a good O-lineman. I’ve heard that one before. I just don’t believe that guys at high profile schools need pro coaching to develop additional moves, learn proper hand placement, etc.

    Greg Mattison is obviously a pretty good D-line/LB coach with NFL experience and he’s worked with Charlton for 3 years. There was plenty of time for him to learn everything. But you say ‘he doesn’t have a plan when rushing the passer’, despite good coaching for 3 years’? For me, it’s a definite pass.

  • Jaybird

    He just doesn’t look stoudt enough to play OLB and set an edge. Or that he would have enough bend at 6’6 to get around a tackle. He doesn’t look like our typical college DE converted to OLB.

  • Michael James

    But who do you take then? It’s basically decision time between picking a more polished player that isn’t a good athlete (Lawson, Barnett) and picking a raw player that has tremendous physical upside (Charlton, McKinley, Harris). The only guy who is fairly polished and a tremendous athlete will go in the top-5 (Garrett). Tim Williams is a special case, since he has serious off-the-field problems.
    I would always take a player with high upside. Dupree has shown real improvement last year and Danielle Hunter in Minnesota is another case of a very raw player turning into a Pro-Bowl caliber player. We’ve already seen how below average athletes like Jarvis Jones work out in the NFL.

  • Michael James

    Oh he has the bend, believe me. I can’t remember the game, since I’ve watched his tape a month ago, but one of the biggest positives was his bending ability (I couldn’t believe it myself, since he’s so tall).
    If you compare him to other DEs like DeMarcus Walker (who is stiff as a board), the difference in unbelievable.

  • Michael Mosgrove

    trey hendrickson > taco charlton

  • Jaybird

    Why do we have to take an OLB at 30? If there isn’t a good one available then go after a CB or ILB if Timmons leaves. Wouldn’t another quality DB be better than reaching and getting stuck with another Jarvis Jones?

  • Jaybird

    Charlie Casserly did have us taking Burns in the first last year , so who knows . Maybe he gets it right two years in a row.

  • popsiclesticks

    There are times, like the Nat’l Champ game, where this guy looks like a top 20 pick. Then there are most other times, where he looks like a 5 rounder. I’d avoid him.

    Of course, I thought the same thing about Dontari Poe.

  • popsiclesticks

    IMO, yes. This draft is so deep that I’m assuming there will be a top OLB option at 30 but if no one jumps out, I wouldn’t pass up say OJ Howard to draft a guy that probably isn’t a better prospect than some guys who will be there at 62.

  • Ace

    Because OLB is the biggest need on the PS and if they wait until round two the pickings will be slim. And if they miss at round one at least they can say they tried. Why don’t they take a CB or ILB at round one? Value vs Need. There is no ILB worth a first round pick and the top CB’s will be picked off by then. Plus, they don’t really have a glaring need for ILB (if you believe LT will be back, which I do). If they stick to the board and go BPA we might be looking at Njoku or Davis if he slips and all the top tier OLB’s are gone. Although every year there is some top level talent that slips and some randoms that sneak into the first round that no one had pegged. So they could get lucky and have an EDGE pushed down to them. My guess is Rivers, Riddick and Lawson will all be sitting there still at 30. Maybe Harris. Do you want a small school guy? Do you want an undersized OLB/ILB? Do you want injury risk who is already at his ceiling? Tough year to be at 30 considering the needs. Reminds me of a Stones song…

  • Shane Mitchell

    I cant see the transition to OLB for the Steelers for a lot of the edge prospects in this draft, not sure Charlton would even be on their draft board unless he runs about a 4.6 forty. Someone like Alex Anzalone or Hassan Reddick could step in and play soon, someone like Charlton would be a major project player.

  • capehouse

    I think he’s going to be a great pro. Reminds me a lot of Carlos Dunlap. That being said I wish the article discussed wether he had the versatility to play the OLB position for the Steelers. Good athlete in space sounds like a plus, but can he drop and cover?

  • Vincent Prata

    You guys should do a profile on Solomon thomas

  • Shane Mitchell

    This idea that it is the biggest need is a bit cloudy in my mind, for a few reasons, number one all position groups are not equal in terms of their impact on the outcome of games, the rules have changed too much to favor the passing game. Our WR group is about 3 times more likely to impact any game than our OLBs, one WR on the field is the difference between having an offense that scores 22 and one that scores 29 points per game. Because the rules favor offense so much now. We can lose or add a great defensive players and their impact on the scoreboard will be trivial in comparison to a WR or pass catching TE. For example, we lost Heyward our best defensive player and also Martavis Bryant was suspended, whose absence had more effect on the game? Our best defensive player still isnt able to impact the game as much as a #2 NFL WR.

    We need to evaluate needs not just by looking at the roster but by looking at what position groups have to be strong to have any chance of winning a superbowl, and which unit controls the outcome of most games, that is clearly our offense, because we arent trying to control games using our defense, its not our strategy anymore. If we are running a bend but dont break defense the needs on defense are minimized.

  • Ike Evans

    Taco would be better on a 4-3 team i think…..the falcons come to mind…opposite beasley….

  • Ike Evans

    I disagree….you dont see he bend consistently at all….hes stiff most of the time

  • Ace

    Why bother, he won’t get past 20.

  • Ace

    Which group is better in your opinion.
    OLB-Dupree, Chikillo, Moats.
    WR-Brown, Bryant, Coates, Rogers, DHB, Ayers.

    Can’t count Harrison, he’s a free agent. I don’t even know if you can count Moats, isn’t he a free agent too? My point is, one group is full of talent, one is a dearth. Most important positional groups are in order QB, OLB, LT, CB, WR. The argument that passing is more prominent backs my point on the need for more pass rushers.

  • Jaybird

    I understand that OLB is our biggest need but I think Corner isn’t far behind. We are currently banking on Golsen, Gay, and Cockrell . That’s not impressive. I would love to see a Noah Spence type player fall to us , but I also wouldn’t mind a Janoris Jenkins type corner falling to us either.
    i just want another Defense heavy draft like last year ( with similar results!).

  • Ace

    Don’t forget Artie!!! But yes I agree on the need for a CB is close behind OLB. I’m OK with one in the first or second really.

  • francesco

    We’re really not good on defense and not consistent on offense.
    I can’t see us scoring 24 points or more every game so I would stock up on defense in order to win more games.

  • Jaybird

    I left Artie out because I think he’s got a future and shows some promise. The ones I mentioned are the ones who scare the hell out of me!

  • TrappenWeisseGuy ;

    Unless we’re going over to a 4 man front I don’t see it for this guy. Yeah you could throw him in the weight room for a year or two but I don’t see enough sand in his pants for a 3-4 end. And who was the last 6’6″ 270 lb rush olb you ever saw?.

  • TrappenWeisseGuy ;

    Don’t forget Chad NachoStinko.

  • RickM

    I’m really not sure who I like best yet. I don’t share the same feelings on Dupree. I don’t really think that he’s developed all that much as a pass rusher. He’s still valuable, even if most of his sacks are when the QB has to hold onto the ball. And he still has time to learn. As for Hunter, you’re question is a good one. I know from reading about him he had great use of his hands in college and several moves, but he hadn’t produced a lot of sacks. It sounds like he had a better pass rushing foundation than Charlton, and Minnesota obviously refined the skills.

    I’d go about the scouting of this position different than most. My starting point would be to study the college and pro tape of guys who surprised as NFL pass rushers over the last several years, and guys who failed, to see what was missed and what was over-valued. I genuinely believe you can work out prototypes, especially for guys that out-perform draft expectations. For existing prospects, I’d only review games against good opposing linemen and would grade the coaching received. I am not big on ‘raw’ athletes if they received good coaching. In that case, I think “raw” more accurately means that they weren’t able to master certain skills their quality coach tried to teach them.

  • TrappenWeisseGuy ;

    Exactly, he’s a 4-3 end and I don’t see another position for him. Not without either ga

  • LucasY59

    I think part of why they picked Jarvis was that they saw him as a pro ready prospect (they had just released Harrison and needed a guy that could step in right away) I agree it is much better to go with the superior athlete that has more room to improve (especially with the 1sr rd pick where the talent level is really high, and potential is even higher)

  • LucasY59

    you kinda contradict your reasoning for why they HAVE to take a OLB 1st, most of what you say makes it so they should pass on a pass rusher

  • LucasY59

    I am very intrigued by a DE hybrid, I dont think he would be a OLB, but a guy that could play outside (especially in the sub package) but could also possibly play some base (5 tech) DE snaps or maybe even line up inside on sub package as well

    I dont think a 1st rd pick would be a good idea for a position the Defense has never used before, but I think later in the draft (especially the 3rd rd where they have the extra comp) would be a really good idea to make the Defense more multiple

  • Shane Mitchell

    We are trying to win the game using our passing game not our defense thats my point, we are trying to score 30 plus points every game to win, and playing a defense that is OK with letting a team drive down the field slowly to score which has nothing to do with who is playing OLB, it has to do with the defensive philosophy, that philosophy does not change adding any OLBs. Its a bend but dont break defense, that is what Tomlin likes to play and what he ran when he was a DC.

    The order of importance is QB,WR,OL,RB,S,LB,DL,CB

    Harrison is playing for US or not playing at all, so I dont consider him a FA. Our OLBs rush the passer less than 50% of passing downs not sure if most fans realize that fact. Against the Patriots they ran 44 pass plays, James Harrison rushed the passer 19 times and Dupree 20 out of those 44 plays.

  • Jaybird

    Nice . I forgot about Ocho.

  • Jaybird

    I agree and was thinking the same thing.

  • Michael James

    Fair point. It would be very interesting to look at the traits all of the NFL’s top EDGEs have in common. Without taking a further look at it, I am pretty sure almost all of them are elite athletes. Von Miller, Watt, Beasley, Mack, Houston etc. are athletic freaks. That tells me that drafting a mediocre athlete isn’t a good idea.
    Like you said, it would also be very interesting how the ‘raw’ EDGEs have developed in the NFL. Hunter came up my mind because I remember many analyst labeling him as a ‘insanely raw athletic freak’ back then. I politely disagree on Dupree. I was one of his biggest critics, but while he’s still far from being a dominant EDGE he’s shown much improvement in the last few games, finally winning the edge on some occasions, showing better hand fighting and showing some bending ability.

  • Ace

    I disagree with your order of importance but…

    QB-check WR-check (BIG IF SC and MB are back-although i wouldn’t mind a 3rd round or later pick of course) OL-check RB-duh S-Check (but could use a potential MM understudy) LB-ILB and OLB huge question marks. And here we are. Can you imagine if Dupree misses another half a season and PS spent their first on a WR who sits the bench?

    I see the biggest hole on the team at OLB. I want a stud. Or two. If they had one, they wouldn’t be dropping him. I saw the defense turn the corner in the last half of the year, which took some pressure off of the offense. Heck, the D won the divisional game against KC for them. The D has gone through a complete overhaul and is looking real well. Just missing a couple pieces. And that’s a good thing because here in a couple years steelers fans are going to realize how much is sucks not having a franchise qb. In fact we are already starting to with how erratic Ben has been from week to week. The more reason to get that D up to speed, have a solid team around Ben to prop him up and hope they can make a couple more runs before he rides off.

  • Ace

    I could see that, but don’t confuse me listing warts on those players as a legit reason to pass on them. Everyone’s got a weakness. Perhaps I got a little off base. What I want is the best available pass rusher in the first round. OLB. What the PS want could be to take the BPA in the first round. If that’s someone besides a OLB, and they take him, I think it would be a mistake.

  • Jon Crissinger

    Preston Smith had 8 sacks as a rookie. 6’5 271lbs

  • pkeats86

    Agreed.

  • Geoffrey Benedict

    I really like Taco.

    He has the tools, they are just raw. he needs taught to chain moves together, get NFL strength, and just overall get crisper and better at everything.

    The motor, “heart”, and results are there. To translate to the NFL he needs to just get better at stuff that is easier to coach up.

    he reminds me a lot of Woodley, but he won’t last as long as Woodley because Woodley was short, and Taco is the right height for a 4-3 end.

    We do most of our pass rush out of a 4 man front, so they could work him in like they did Woodley, spelling James while the young man develops.

    He’ll be 22 for half of next season, so he’s still young.

    He’d be more limited in coverage, but again, we switch to a 4-man front in passing situations, so he’d be on the line in a 3-point stance for most passing plays.

  • You have to wonder if there’s a place for him at that size unless we move to a burrito front though.

    I like how he handles the hot sauce but how much sour cream can we hold? this is the AFC North. Need to hold your cream here.

  • a 3-4 team that plays Nickle 3/4 of the time is a lot like a 4-3 team though.

  • Ike Evans

    Ehhhhh……ours is more of a 2-5 but ill save the technicalities…….taco cant win consistently from the outside….hes a better inside rusher….good on stunts as well….so a 4-3 where they can kick him inside on 3rd down would be perfect….plus taco’s frame probably will add more weight….he could easily get into the 280s with his body type and think thats best for is game….again…better suited for 4-3

  • Josh Carney

    You’re 100 percent spot on, Ike. Totally agree with you. He’s not a 3-4 fit. 4-3 has to be where he plays or I can’t really see him working out well.

  • Josh Carney

    Who are you referring to? Charlton and Michigan haven’t played in a National Championship game.

  • Josh Carney

    Who’s Matthew? Lol

  • Josh Carney

    Steelers don’t switch to a 4-man front in passing situations. It’s more of a 2-5 with OLB’s standing up. Taco can’t really rush standing up. He’s much more explosive with his hand in the ground.

  • Michael James

    Oh man, sorry Josh. I just read another article and switched the authors 😉

  • popsiclesticks

    Whoops. No idea why I called it that. It was the Orange Bowl.

    Guess I’m used to postseason games that actually matter.

  • disqus_WrRvUyG2DA

    Of the pass rushers I have seen. He looks the best at getting to the QB. Also like his size and the level of competition.