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2017 draft: The year Dallas gifted TJ Watt to the Steelers

Playing the Dallas Cowboys this past Sunday evoked many memories between these two franchises.  There is plenty of Super Bowl history between these two, but a more recent event comes to mind.  The 2017 draft will once again forever link these two teams.  That is the draft where Jerry Jones and company chose Taco Charlton instead of TJ Watt, just to spots before the Steelers were to select.  Charlton did not even finish out his rookie contract with the Cowboys.  He was released early on in 2019, and now plays a limited role with the Kansas City Chiefs.  Meanwhile, TJ Watt has become one of the premier pass rushers in the NFL.

In a recent interview with a Dallas radio station, Cowboys Vice President Stephen Jones explained what led to the Cowboys decision.  https://www.bloggingtheboys.com/2020/11/7/21553441/stephen-jones-regrets-that-the-dallas-cowboys-passed-on-drafting-t-j-watt-in-2017

Apparently defensive coordinator Rob Marenelli was concerned on how Watt would stand up versus the run game in the Cowboys 4-3 scheme.  Now we should probably consider the source here.  Obviously this was a huge blunder in which Jones is ultimately responsible for.  Blaming  a long since departed defensive coordinator for this decision seems a little too convenient.  Jerry and Stephen Jones aren’t exactly known for being told how they should run their franchise.  Whoever is at fault, the Steelers benefited in a big way from the Cowboys decision.

The Dallas Cowboys aren’t the only team to thank for the Steelers windfall in the 2017 draft.  Several teams selected pass rushers in the first round who don’t quite live up to TJ Watt.

2017 edge rushers drafted in round one:

1. Cleveland Browns  – Myles Garrett – 39.5 sacks

3. San Francisco 49ers  – Solomon Thomas – 6 sacks

13. Arizona Cardinals – Haason Reddick – 12.5 sacks

14.  Philadelphia Eagles – Derek Barnett – 17.5 sacks

17.  Washington FB – Jonathan Allen – 17 sacks

22. Miami Dolphins – Charles Harris – 5.5 sacks

26.  Atlanta Falcons – Takk McKinley – 17.5 sacks

28.  Dallas Cowboys – Taco Charlton – 11 sacks

30.  Pittsburgh Steelers – TJ Watt – 41.5 sacks

As you can see, what was supposed to be a great draft for pass rushers turned into quite a dud.  Some of these players have taken different roles in their respective defenses, explaining some of the lack of production in sacks.  Others like Takk McKinley, Charles Harris, and Taco Charlton are outright busts.  Excluding the ultra-talented number one pick Myles Garrett, TJ Watt was head and shoulders above any other player in terms of the edge position.

Sometimes that old saying “its better to be lucky than good” applies when it comes to the NFL draft.  Several franchises would love to have their pick back from the 2017 draft.  The Steelers on the other hand were ecstatic to have Watt fall into their laps.  He has become the key cog in what is the Pittsburgh’s revitalization on defense. 2020 Steelers defense is the best of the Mike Tomlin era

Whether it was Jerry Jones, Stephen Jones, Jason Garrett, or Rob Manelli the Steelers owe somebody in the Dallas Cowboys organization a debt of gratitude.  Life without TJ Watt in black and gold would be unthinkable.

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