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Myles Garrett leads top CFB edge defenders to watch in 2016

Texas A&M's Myles Garrett keeps getting better and he will likely enter this season as the most buzzed about pass-rushing prospect in scouting circles. With that said, Missouri's Charles Harris has plenty of fans in NFL circles, and Alabama's Tim Williams is getting ready to wreck the competition in the SEC.

This is not a list previewing the 2017 NFL Draft, but a look at the edge defenders that are generating interest from NFL scouts and/or are expected to post big seasons for their teams. Here are 10 to watch in 2016.

1. Myles Garrett, Texas A&M

Garrett, who recorded 22.5 sacks over his first two seasons, has added more muscle to his frame over the last two seasons and has enough power in his legs to put up a good fight at the point of attack against much bigger offensive tackles. Garrett's burst out of his stance is reminiscent of Von Miller's when he was at Texas A&M and Garrett has the lightning-quick change of direction to shadow running backs and quarterbacks who try to make a sudden dash for the perimeter. Garrett relies on athleticism and explosiveness as a pass rusher, but has room for improvement with hand work and in stringing together moves and counters. Another double-digit sack year is on the horizon.

2. Charles Harris, Missouri

Harris might not have a doctorate in the spin move yet, but he's working on his master's degree. Harris uses his spin move to gain ground as a pass rusher and disengage from blockers. In fact, Harris has an urgency about his play that simply won't allow for him to stay blocked for very long. With exceptional burst in his first step, Harris has become a disruptive force along the Missouri front, which is known for cranking out NFL defensive ends. While his seven sacks from 2015 might not excite some, keep in mind he generated a combined 41 hurries and knockdowns to go with those sacks. From a scouting perspective, Harris has tremendous buzz.

3. Tim Williams, Alabama

While Jonathan Allen will get (and deserve) much of the attention along the talented Alabama defensive front, Williams might be the most talented and disruptive of them all. Williams has tremendous get-off after the snap and comes charging hard up the field. What makes Williams particularly lethal is his combination of hand usage and ability to get around the edge. Williams can effortlessly time and swat an opponent's punch to open the door around the corner, and he has a sharp pivot around that corner, which makes him an immediate threat to quarterbacks. Williams has some speed-to-power capabilities as well, which is why he was able to record a sack every 18.2 snaps he played in 2015.

4. Arden Key, LSU

I believe that Key's play against Le'Raven Clark in last season's AdvoCare Texas Bowl ended up costing Clark at least a full round (drafted in third, 82nd overall) in the 2016 draft. Clark struggled to handle the long-limbed freshman, who used his patented jab fake inside to open the edge around Clark for stretches of the game. Key's build is similar to 2016 first-round pick Leonard Floyd's and he lacks the strength to consistently win against the run, but unlike Floyd, scouts believe Key has the type of body that will easily carry more muscle and overall bulk. Key will continue to grow into that long frame and could become one of the most talked about pass rushers in the nation -- even as a sophomore.

5. Sam Hubbard, Ohio State

"Baby Bosa" is going to be a problem for Big Ten tackles. Hubbard came to Ohio State as a highly rated athlete/safety, but he's been able to add mass to his frame over the last two years and showed a new level of thickness to his frame this spring. Hubbard has the height (6-foot-5, per school measurements), length and quickness that made Joey Bosa special. Hubbard's 2015 tape showed enough hand usage and upper-body strength to believe that he will see a spike in his production (6.5 sacks last year). Hubbard has the physical traits and overall athleticism teams are always looking for off the edge and if he ties impressive production to his already impressive traits, scouts will be salivating.

6. Devonte Fields, Louisville

I promise you that viewers would come away quite impressed if they saw a highlight reel for Fields. One of the problems I have with Fields is that the tape surrounding the highlights is uneven thanks in large part to a lack of a quality, consistent motor. TCU parted ways with Fields in 2014 and he spent a season in the junior college ranks before landing in Louisville last season. His burst to the ball and sudden change-of-direction talent are traits that excite NFL scouts. He comes out of nowhere, flying after the quarterback and he's adept at making tackles on the other side of the line of scrimmage in the run game. Fields is squarely on NFL scouting radars, but he has to prove he can play hard on a more consistent basis and he'll have to convince scouts he's matured with time.

7. Derek Barnett, Tennessee

After a strong freshman season saw him gain my No. 8 ranking in this space heading into 2015, I came away underwhelmed by Barnett's 2015 tape and I've heard scouts give him the same review. Barnett has said he was "thinking too much" at the start of last season, but the effort level was inconsistent far too often throughout the season. Barnett will never be an edge-bender, but he does have the ability to diversify his pass rush and attack offensive tackles with a better plan and more urgency. Against the run, Barnett's power and bulk help him to hold his ground and he's been extremely productive as a tackler for both of his seasons at Tennessee.

8. DeMarcus Walker, Florida State

Walker is a true base defensive end with a well-proportioned build to handle the physicality of the NFL trenches. He exploded on the scene last season with 10.5 sacks. He also showed an ability to stand strong against the run and set a hard edge. Walker flashes quality hand play to free himself as a pass rusher and showed an ability to change his rush strategy as the snap moved along. His six pass deflections and four forced fumbles further illustrate his impact on the game. He needs to enter the 2016 season in great shape so he can show off a more consistent motor.

9. Marquis Haynes, Ole Miss

Haynes improved on his numbers from his freshman season, with his sack total going from 7.5 to 10 and tackles for loss from 9 to 16.5. Haynes has spent his first two seasons as a pass-rush specialist for a deep Ole Miss defensive front, but I think we'll see the Rebels find a way to get Haynes on the field on a more consistent basis this season. With the speed and flexibility to consistently bend the edge as a pass rusher, Haynes will continue to torment SEC tackles, but how will he transition to the NFL? With thin legs and a frame that is much more befitting of a safety than an outside linebacker, Haynes will need to prove to scouts he can add more functional weight.

10. Keionta Davis, Tennessee-Chattanooga

Don't look now, but FCS schools are cranking out NFL draft picks. Davis figures to be yet another after the 2016 season concludes. Turn on the tape and you'll see the first-team All-SoCon defensive end giving Florida State's heralded tackle, Roderick Johnson, all he could handle with powerful inside charges and trips around the edge as a rusher in a November game last year. Davis plays with solid strength at the point of attack and a hunger that drives him through the whistle. He might not be a high-end athlete by NFL standards, but he's a productive, driven player.

Follow Lance Zierlein on Twitter @LanceZierlein.

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