Charles Tapper, DE, Oklahoma Sooners
Position: 4-3 Strongside DE/3-4 DE
Hometown: Baltimore, MD
Experience: 3 year starter
40yd dash: 4.59
Broad jump: 119 inches
Vertical: 34 inches
20yd. Shuttle: NA
Bench Press: 23 reps
Charles Tapper did not start playing football until his junior year of high school, instead focusing on basketball. As a senior in high school, he played both defensive end and tight end, and despite his relative lack of experience, he was ranked as a 3-star recruit by Rivals and ESPN. He played in 5 games his freshman year in a very limited role. He went on to start every game from his sophomore season onward. He played both 5-technique DE and 7-tech DE his freshman year, but his stats took a dive in 2014 when he switched to playing 5-technique exclusively. He performed better statistically in 2015 in the same role, making plays against the run and helping keep linebackers Striker, Thomas and Alexander clean.
5-technique 3-4 defensive ends, by the very nature of the position, are not glamorized in the same way 3-4 outside linebackers or 4-3 defensive ends are. By lining up directly over the offensive tackle and focusing on defending the run first, it is difficult to make splash plays rushing the passer. For this reason, Tapper’s 7 sacks in 2015 are quite an accomplishment. Of more note are his 10 tackles for loss and 50 total tackles, again impressive because his primary role was to control blockers rather than take down the ballcarrier himself. Tapper’s best statistical games in 2015 did come against subpar competition (3 sacks against Kansas, 2 against Iowa State), but he consistently performed well against the run throughout the season, including very good games against Clemson and TCU. In the one game where he got a chance to consistently line up outside the tackle (against Texas Tech’s spread offense), he flashed the strength and agility to win against one of the more physically talented left tackle prospects in this draft class.
Tapper’s elite combine performance makes him one of the defensive line prospects with the most potential in this draft. He can win with both strength and speed, and if his technique improves he will be able to develop into a very effective early-down run defender. His repertoire of pass rush moves is limited and despite his physical ability, his poor pad level often prevented him from physically dominating less talented opponents. His success at the next level is extremely dependent on getting coaching that will allow him to maximize his physical ability.
Charles Tapper has not missed a game in his three years as a starter.
Pass Rush: 2/5
If one were to watch film of Tapper ONLY on pass plays, one might question whether he was likely to get drafted. Keeping in mind that most of the time, Tapper played head-up on the tackle, which is a difficult position to rush from, he still did not show any of the explosiveness or agility that his combine performance suggests he has. When attempting a bull rush, he often played with his pads too high, preventing him from doing any damage. His other pass rush moves are essentially nonexistent, occasionally trying spin moves or arm-over moves, which were equally ineffective. One bright spot in his technique appeared towards the end of the season, where he was able to win several plays against the Clemson OL with good hand usage combined with his strength. Most of the few times Tapper showed potential as a pass rusher came when he lined up outside the tackle and used his speed and size to beat the LT around the edge while shrinking the pocket.
Run Defense: 3.8/5
Tapper’s primary role in the Oklahoma 3-4 defensive front was to control the offensive tackle and clog up the run lanes to his side. While this decreased his effectiveness rushing the passer, it inversely increased his effectiveness against the run. He was able to anchor well against most offensive tackles, showing a good instinct for where the run play was going and which hole the ball-carrier wanted to hit. He also showed the ability to get off blocks well, making some tackles for loss and some for no gain. His pad level was generally better against the run than the pass, but he occasionally would get off balance and could be put on skates by stronger offensive linemen. His hand usage was another bright spot, setting up blockers to get them off balance and ripping past them to make a tackle. He is a good tackler in space and can drop the hammer on a running back trying to get through the hole. He had 4 forced fumbles in 2015.
Tapper had the best combine performance for any player his size in 2016. His straight line speed, combined with his agility and explosiveness, are what will get him drafted 2-3 rounds ahead of where his tape dictates he should be drafted. If his technique can be improved and he is put in a penetrating scheme rather than a 2-gap scheme, he does have the potential to be an effective speed-to-power rusher, especially against offensive tackles from a defensive end position.
Impact Play Ability: 3/5
While Tapper was not utilized in a way that allowed him to maximize his stat line, he still showed the ability to make big plays from time to time. When making unblocked tackles, he brings all of his weight behind him to really thump running backs. On his forced fumble/fumble recovery against TCU, he displayed impressive strength to literally pull the ball out of the TCU runningback’s arms. He also showed the awareness to be a factor against the pass through getting his hands in passing lanes by reading the quarterback’s eyes.
Overall Grade: 3.3/5
Tapper is an extremely raw prospect from a technique perspective. Despite the fact that he has played hundreds of snaps each season for the last three years, he still makes frequent basic mistakes such as playing with high pad level. Whatever success he had at Oklahoma was due almost entirely to his superior physical abilities. He does play with a high motor, and he has been a leader on the defense for the last two seasons. It will require a lot of coaching, and he will ideally see the field very little his rookie year, but the potential is there for Tapper to become a solid to very good 5- or 7-technique defensive end.
If drafted by the Packers:
Tapper will do nothing to address the Packers’ immediate needs on the defensive line. However, if he is the Packers’ second defensive lineman chosen in this draft, it creates a situation where he will be able to learn from veterans Mike Daniels, Julius Peppers, Nick Perry and Datone Jones and perhaps develop his technique enough to crack the D-line rotation by the end of the season, without the pressure to come in and contribute immediately. He is, however, athletic and strong enough to be used at multiple positions on the defense, from outside linebacker to 3-technique under tackle, which is surely a plus in Ted Thompson’s eyes.
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