The 2016 draft left many Cowboy fans feeling just as hopeless as the year before. How were a first round running back, a second round injured linebacker, and a fourth round back up quarterback expected to return a four win team to greatness? Countless called for a stronger focus on defense and subsequently seemed ignored. Frustration and confusion followed in the off season, where nothing seemed to be falling into place.

Yet, here we are.

Here we are with a rookie quarterback who led a team straight to the playoffs without hesitation. Here we are with a rookie running back who led the sport in rushing yards. Here we are with an offensive line that is quite arguably the best in the league. Here we are, the Dallas Cowboys, once again a force to be reckoned with, and the time for a defensive focus is now.

A pass rusher appears to be the most urgent need for the 2017 draft. For more convincing, ask Aaron Rodgers if he felt he had enough time to throw in the NFC Divisional Round. It still hurts to remember, but it highlights the missing piece Dallas needs in order to be a Super Bowl contender.

With the upcoming draft, here are a few athletes to consider:

Taco Charlton: A defensive end out of Michigan, Charlton has consistently proven his ability to set the edge well. He clearly shows speed, agility, and athleticism with an impressive 19 sacks and 13 tackles for loss with only one year as a full-time starter. He is expected to be able to rush the pass from the interior, as well as play on both sides of the ball. Although he has not shown quite the explosiveness he might need to in the NFL, there is always room for improvement under a high-caliber coach such as Rod Marinelli.

Takkarist McKinley: McKinley logged 10 sacks in his Senior season as a defensive end for UCLA, but has a shown a more impressive feat in his technique, including his clean bend moves to pressure the quarterback. He displays enough muscle to face tackles, but poises concerns with shoulder injuries that may one day need to be addressed by surgery. Dallas would have to decide if his striking rush moves are worth the risk.

Tim Williams: This linebacker out of Alabama has undeniable talent, but would be a very controversial pick for the Cowboys. On the field, Williams has shown incredible raw speed and posed a threat to quarterbacks everywhere. He accumulated 41 sacks and hits from only 482 pass-rushing attempts. Off the field, he poses many questions involving his criminal charges and failed drug tests. The Cowboys have faced these off-field issues in the past, and would again face a tough decision if considering drafting him.

Derek Barnett: Barnett might not be a first priority to the Cowboys, who so highly value pure speed and athleticism. However, the defensive end out of Tennessee should be considered. He has much to offer, especially when analyzing balance, rushing moves, and anticipation out of the snap. By the time Dallas’s 28th pick rolls around, there is high chance Barnett will have already been claimed. However, if he is still available, he has great potential to be an asset to our system.

(Photo: Mahanga, Wikimedia Commons)

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