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Stephen Jones Revisits The Watt/Taco Decision


FRISCO, Texas – Just as a general rule, the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft is one of the most-discussed topics of conversation in recent Cowboys history.

The team's decision to select Taco Charlton over T.J. Watt with the 28th overall pick was hotly debated at the time, and it has only become more contentious as Watt has developed into one of the NFL's best pass rushers.

So with Watt coming to town as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers – the team that drafted him 30th overall, just two picks later – it was bound to be discussed again.

Asked Friday on 105.3 FM The Fan if he regretted the decision, Cowboys chief operating officer Stephen Jones could only laugh ruefully.

"Absolutely," Jones said. "You always do that if you're truthful and you're honest – what you might could have."

Cowboy fans are undoubtedly aware, but Watt has blossomed into an All-Pro in the three years since the Cowboys' decision. He finished the 2019 season with 14.5 sacks, and he is already sitting on 6.5 heading into his eighth game of this season.

Dallas ultimately decided to draft Charlton out of Michigan. He lasted just two seasons with the Cowboys, tallying four total sacks and 46 tackles. He was eventually released in September 2019 and claimed by Miami. He has since moved on to Kansas City, where he has six tackles and two sacks with the defending champion Chiefs.

Jones said the tough thing about the decision is that the Cowboys themselves seriously debated drafting Watt. Ultimately, he said they were considered about how the 252-pound prospect would hold up in defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli's scheme.

"I think the biggest issue was we were playing a 4-3 there with Rod, and Rod was concerned about how he'd hold up against the run in the 4-3 and didn't have that same concern with Taco," Jones said.

Three years later, Marinelli is now working with the Las Vegas Raiders, and the Cowboys are employing a much more multiple scheme under Mike Nolan – a fact that wasn't lost on Jones.

"Obviously, if you had to that to do all over again, I wish we would've done that," Jones said. "And of course he'd fit even probably better in some of the things we're trying to do now with Coach Nolan and our defense."

Every team in the league has a long list hits and a long list of regrets, which is what makes the draft so fascinating. Regardless what happens Sunday, it's clear which category Watt belongs in for the Cowboys.

"He's obviously a great player," Jones said. "He's already on his way to a great career, not unlike his brother, and congratulations to the Steelers for getting him."

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