This is part of my series to film study each of the Cowboys draft picks who were not covered prior to the draft. Today is the 4th-round pick, DE Charles Tapper. We will follow the template from the 50 profiles done pre-draft in the early spring.
I have never been a scout or a NFL general manager, but I am willing to watch a ton of football. By watching about 200 snaps of each prospect, we can really get a feel for a player and then know what we are talking about a bit better. It is no exact science, but the NFL hasn't quite figured out drafting either, so we are going to do the best we can. To read more about the 2016 NFL Draft Project, click here.
Charles Tapper, DE, Oklahoma - 6-foot-2, 271 pounds - senior - No. 91
The 4th round of the NFL draft has produced some interesting picks for the Cowboys over the years and there have been some important pieces secured. Without question, the finest have been offensive linemen like Tom Rafferty (No. 119 in 1976), Pat Donovan (No. 90 in 1975), John Fitzgerald (No. 101 in 1970) and Doug Free (No. 122 in 2007). Additionally, Tony Tolbert (No. 85 in 1989), Bradie James (No. 103 in 2003) and Chris Canty (No. 132 in 2005) all have served as key defensive pieces. The team also has recently found some running backs of various levels of quality -- Marion Barber (No. 109 in 2005) and reserve roster player Tashard Choice (No. 122 in 2008).
However, since Doug Free was picked in 2007, this has been a rather barren wasteland in terms of finding starters or key pieces. In fact, several of these Round 4 pieces have had trouble ever stepping on the field for Dallas -- LB Brandon Williams in 2009, DB Akwasi Owusu-Ansah, DB Matt Johnson, QB Stephen McGee and OL David Arkin all produced only punchlines in these parts. Others like Victor Butler or B.W. Webb are sold as potential developmental pieces, but never materialize. Anthony Hitchens seems a very solid pro and hopes are still high for Damien Wilson, but the team could really use some 4th-round dividends from their two picks this year -- Tapper and QB Dak Prescott.
With three picks in the 3rd and 4th rounds at the draft, the Cowboys seemed to have the plan of taking two DL pieces and a QB. In the 3rd round, they selected the 3-technique in Maliek Collins. In the 4thround, they had high hopes of grabbing Connor Cook at No. 101 until the Raiders snuck up to No. 100 and sabotaged that idea. The Cowboys then decided that Prescott was not worth that pick, so they went DL there and tried to get their QB down at No. 135. It worked.
Tapper clearly is one they have plans for right away as they wanted to fortify the defensive line with numbers and talent.
What I liked: Tapper is best known for his position-best 40-yard dash time at the combine (4.59 with a 1.59 10-yard split), for which he was down to 271 after playing around 280 in the fall. He is a defensive end who can move a little in tight quarters and obviously has some impressive straight-line speed. He has a little chase in his game and there are definitely times when you will see a red-hot motor. He played the defensive end for Oklahoma, which is basically a 5-technique, 2-gap technique in run spots and more of a typical 4-3 DE on passing downs. This allowed him to make quite a few plays in his time at Oklahoma, where he had 15.5 sacks and 26.5 tackles for loss over three seasons as a starter -- despite playing in a system many would suggest was asking him to sacrifice for the scheme. He has a bull-rush that can put tackles on roller skates and he has a surprising spin move that opens up many opportunities to get to the QB. He also is able to get the football, having stripped the ball four different times last season alone. He stands up well against the run, where he will not get pushed around, and also has a bit of a pass rush in him. He certainly appears to be a decent idea as a strong-side defensive end and has a chance to be 290 by his second season. He plays with some infectious emotion at times.
What I did not like: There are long stretches when Tapper is not a real factor as he gets neutralized at the snap and doesn't have a full array of moves. The idea is that his skill set is not fully developed between very limited playing time in high school and 2-gapping in Norman. The Cowboys are pretty sure they can teach him the tactics he will need, but for now, I might classify his arsenal as "raw." His quickness is not going to blow you away (I was certainly expecting a little more twitchiness from a sub-4.6 DE) and he will get hung up in traffic on his way to the play. I think this stiffness will keep him from being a real pass-rush threat, but that certainly is not what the Cowboys were targeting here. They wanted a strong player with versatility and I think that much is evident. It should also be pointed out -- as you can tell in the video -- that he put up a lot of his production against Kansas and Iowa State. They all count, but as we try to convert that to Sundays, we must be somewhat skeptical how that translates.
Summary and potential fit with the Cowboys: It is very important to understand where the bar is at in the 4th round. If you can get a rotational fit with pick No. 101, you have to be pleased. This is not a point in the draft where you find flawless players who should step right in and start. Instead, you find pieces that seem like solid rotational players who might be able to find higher spots on your depth chart if they can be developed. I think the Cowboys have quietly assembled a defensive line that has very little sparkle with name recognition, but has plenty of young talent that might grow together and become something decent.
DeMarcus Lawrence is 24, Tyrone Crawford 26, Randy Gregory 23, Benson Mayowa 24, Jack Crawford 27, Ryan Russell 24, Cedric Thornton 27, David Irving 22, and now they add Maliek Collins at 21, and Tapper, 23. Those are 10 players on the defensive line who are an average of 24 years old. Now, is there enough quality there to scare anyone? The only one they are paying big money to is Tyrone Crawford. Everyone else will get a big chance to prove they deserve a check. Tapper is right in that mix. He has tools but needs to polish the rough edges and show he can contribute on Sundays.
But, for me, he is exactly the type of piece you try to get in the 4thround. He has a chance to be of great value.