Myles Garrett has been dubbed a once-in-a-lifetime prospect, based on his rare combination of athleticism and natural ability. As a freakish athlete with a proven track record of production, Garrett is viewed as a lock to come off the board as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. Although it is uncommon to see a pass rusher selected there, Garrett's game-changing ability makes it a sensible proposition, particularly with the questions surrounding the quarterbacks in this class. That's why the Cleveland Browns (who currently hold the pick) have no choice but to take Garrett when the draft opens on April 27. With that in mind, here's the book on Garrett:
What I'm hearing
"He's really talented. He can rush with speed or power, and he plays the game the right way. I wish he had a little more 'dog' (attitude/nastiness) to him, but I think he plays with enough passion and relentlessness to dominate for a long time." -- AFC college scouting director
"The talent is off the charts. He is a good kid who is driven to be great. He is mature, focused and a good worker. He has all of the tools to be a great player, but might need a little time to put it all together." -- AFC scout
"He's a face-of-the-franchise, cornerstone guy. He's a can't-miss prospect. There simply aren't many guys like this walking the planet." -- NFC personnel executive
"Are we sure that he wants to be one of the greats? He checks off the boxes in all areas, but I need to see him play harder. He will get his sacks and makes some big plays, but he has to turn it up to be the dominant player that everyone expects him to be as a pro." -- Former NFL defensive coordinator
What I'm seeing
Garrett is a freak athlete with the combination of size, speed and athleticism to rank as one of the all-time greats at the position. Measuring 6-foot-4 and 272 pounds with 35 1/4-inch arms and 10 1/4-inch hands, he has the kind of explosive athletic traits that typically translate into dominant performance on the field. Based on his numbers from the NFL Scouting Combine alone, Garrett is certainly worthy of the No. 1 overall selection; just compare his spectacular performance to the combine showings of Mario Williams and Jadeveon Clowney, the only two edge rushers to be selected at the top of the draft in the past 15 years:
» Garrett, 2017: 6-4, 272 pounds; 4.64-second 40-yard dash; 41-inch vertical; 10-8 broad jump; 33 reps on the bench press.
» Clowney, 2014: 6-5, 266 pounds; 4.53 40; 37.5-inch vertical; 10-4 broad jump; 21 reps on the bench press.
» Williams, 2006: 6-7, 295 pounds; 4.73 40; 40.5-inch vertical; 10-foot broad jump; 35 reps on the bench press.
Although those numbers could suggest that Garrett is a workout wonder, he put together an impressive résumé at Texas A&M (32.5 career sacks and 48.5 tackles for loss in three seasons) that has scouts touting him as a transcendent star at the position.
As a pass rusher, Garrett certainly meets the eye test. He flashes cat-like quickness off the ball and has already mastered the art of jumping the snap off the edge. Garrett's anticipation and first-step quickness not only rate at an elite level, but they give him a significant advantage in matchups against premier offensive tackles. He is capable of turning the corner on simple speed-rush maneuvers (dip-and-rip or two-hand swipe) or attacking the blocker with a series of power moves (hump move and power spin) that routinely put them on their heels. Garrett's combination of finesse and power is unique for a big-bodied rusher, but it speaks to his explosive athleticism and movement skills off the edge.
Garrett simply overwhelms blockers with his athletic prowess, and few edge blockers are capable of dealing with his overall explosiveness, particularly when he is allowed to align in a "Wide 9" (extreme outside alignment against the offensive tackle), to reduce the angle needed to turn the corner. The former Aggies star also showcases his versatility and explosiveness when he slides inside to attack opponents from a pass-rushing "3-technique" (outside alignment opposite the offensive guard) in nickel situations. Garrett's first-step quickness and dynamic movement skills give him a significant advantage over lumbering interior blockers, which leads to instant pressure in the quarterback's face. With more teams looking for ways to create prime opportunities for their top rushers, Garrett's positional flexibility adds a few bonus points to his total score as a prospect.
Against the run, Garrett is a solid performer on the edge. He is strong enough to hold the point against single and double-team blocks without ceding much ground. Although he needs to continue to improve his disengagement skills, Garrett works to get free and falls in on a number of tackles. Additionally, he flashes the speed and quickness to run down ball carriers from the back side. Garrett can hunt and chase with the best of them, but he needs to bring more effort to consistently create splash plays as a pursuer on the ground.
It's hard to pick apart a player with Garrett's unique gifts; his rare physical tools allow him to overcome some of his technical flaws. But he will need to work on his hand skills to become a dominant pass rusher as a pro. The elite pass protectors will quickly identify and hit his fastball, and he must have a complementary set of pitches to win off the edge. Although we've seen some pass rushers win consistently with a limited repertoire, the vast majority of elite rushers have multiple moves in their arsenal.
That's why I'm also worried about Garrett's overall sack production during his three seasons at Texas A&M, given that just 12 sacks came against SEC competition. In fact, he amassed 4.5 of his 8.5 sacks in 2016 against Texas-San Antonio and compiled another 11.5 of his career sacks against the likes of Rice (2014), Lamar (2014), Louisiana-Monroe (2014) and Nevada (2015). Fifty percent of his sack production was amassed against non-Power Five conference competition.
Overall, Garrett is an exceptional prospect with all of the tools coaches covet in elite pass rushers. He is a rare prospect capable of winning with finesse or power off the edge, despite lacking an polished game. If Garrett can refine his technique and develop better hand-to-hand combat skills, he has a chance to be a perennial Pro Bowler off the edge.
In a league full of superstar pass rushers, it is still hard to find defenders with the combination of athleticism, skill and talent that Garrett displays on tape. The Aggies star is a rare find at the position, and his unique talents could make him one of the most dominant players to man that spot. When I look at his natural pass-rush ability and his movement skills, he reminds me of Julius Peppers during his prime. As a member of the Carolina Panthers' front office during the early years of Peppers' career, I saw him single-handedly reverse the fortunes of a franchise with his mere presence on the edge. Although he wasn't the most skilled or polished pass rusher as a youngster, he consistently found a way to put pressure on the quarterback with a series of "wow" athletic moves that aren't featured in any textbook or coaching manual. I believe Garrett's superior athleticism allows him to wreak similar havoc despite his unpolished rush moves and hand skills. If he masters some of the nuances of the craft, he could become an all-time great -- just like Peppers.
Where he should be picked
The Browns have to take him at No. 1 overall based on his freakish athleticism, movement skills and potential impact. He has the right demeanor, attitude and work ethic to change the culture in the locker room. Although he isn't a finished product, Garrett comes off as a blue-collar guy intent on reaching his potential as a player. Considering the Browns' standing as AFC North cellar-dwellers, they have to make Garrett the top pick despite a glaring need at quarterback.
If the Browns bypass Garrett for whatever reason, I don't believe he'll drop past the Chicago Bears at No. 3 overall. The Bears and San Francisco 49ers (who have the second overall pick) would likely adhere to the "BPA" (best player available) strategy and pluck Garrett off the board at their respective slots. He would fit in well with both squads as a designated pass rusher on the quarterback's blind side.