Myles Garrett built like Julius Peppers, quiet in bowl loss

HOUSTON -- As impressive as Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett looks on tape (from a physical perspective), his build is even more impressive in person. Garrett stalked the sidelines with headphones on during pregame Wednesday night at the Texas Bowl, and I couldn't help but think of Julius Peppers' body type when he was coming out of North Carolina. Garrett, one of the top players in college football, has impressive lower-body thickness and is shredded in his upper body.

In the press box before the game, I was speaking with an NFL evaluator about projections vs. production and he brought up Garrett. His asked this question: "Do you let Garrett's lack of production (this season) keep you from drafting the traits?" Of course, I knew the answer to the question was no. Pass rushers with elite traits are usually drafted early. This evaluator believes that Garrett has been playing cautiously ever since he suffered an ankle injury against Arkansas in September. He also said he wouldn't hold the cautious play against Garrett and said that players respond to injuries that way more often than people realize.

In watching tape this season, I made notes about Garrett not finishing plays and not having his motor revved up like it had been in the past. While it looked like fatigue, I also had to wonder if it had to do with his ankle injury. If he had been playing cautiously, it would account for a downturn in the quality of his tape. After all, we are talking about one of the most explosive, physical specimens in the college game.

In the first half of the matchup against Kansas State on Wednesday, Garrett played somewhat uninspired football. He would run square into blockers and just kind of ride the play out. To be fair, Kansas State was playing away from Garrett and was often sending additional help his way. Garrett did block an extra-point attempt in the first half, but finished the half with no tallies on the stat sheet.

In the second half, Garrett came out with much more juice. He looked to attack the edge harder and showed off that signature dip move around the corner. All in all, Garrett didn't end up making much of a mark on this game and finished with only one tackle.

Garrett, a junior, has yet to announce his intentions for the 2017 draft, and the Browns, who hold the draft's top pick heading into Week 17, will reportedly be among the teams with high interest in his decision. Underclassmen have until a Jan. 16 deadline to apply for early eligibility.

Here are my notes on a few other players that jumped out to me during the Texas Bowl:

» Texas A&M safety Justin Evans is one of the most physical safeties in the 2017 draft, which might be a concern. Let me explain. Evans weighs in at 200 pounds, per school measurements, and based on his thin waist and lower body, it's unlikely that he can carry much more weight on his frame. If he goes around trying to smash everything in his way as a pro, he could have issues with durability. However, Evans is really talented in coverage. He's fast and the former high school receiver has tremendous ball skills. In this game alone, Evans showed an ability to track down the deep ball and make a play on the ball at the catch point to knock the pass away. Teams that are willing to bet on a talented football player who is a little undersized will probably be rewarded.

» Texas A&M WR Josh Reynolds looked just as skinny on the field before the game as he looks on tape. His wiry frame might not be optimal, but it certainly is no indicator of his toughness. Aggie coaches have long praised Reynolds for his toughness and ability to play through pain and they love his competitive spirit. Reynolds showed off his ability to win the 50-50 throw on three separate occasions Wednesday night, including fade-route touchdowns in the third and fourth quarters. Reynolds showed off his ball tracking and high-pointing ability and finished with 12 catches for 154 yards and 2 TDs.

» I've already written up a scouting report for Kansas State DE Jordan Willis and put an early draft grade on him, but one of the things I had a hard time getting a feel for off of the tape was Willis' size. During warm-ups, I was able to tell he had better length than I expected and a really good build. Scouts told me he has the type of frame that should be able to get even bigger. Willis played in this game the same way he plays on tape -- all effort, all the time. He drew a couple of penalties for being offsides, which is indicative of his desire to race into the backfield at all times. Willis' motor and change-of-direction ability had him pressuring Aggies QB Trevor Knight on a few occasions, including a tackle for a loss that I thought should have been counted as a sack. Willis is likely to be viewed by NFL teams as an outside linebacker prospect and he could go inside the top three rounds.

Follow Lance Zierlein on Twitter @LanceZierlein.

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