Myles Garrett Is NFL Draft's Best Overall Player, Smart Option with 1st Pick

Justis Mosqueda@justisfootballFeatured ColumnistDecember 27, 2016

Texas A&M defensive lineman Myles Garrett (15) goes through drills before the start of an NCAA college football game against Ole Miss Saturday, Nov. 12, 2016, in College Station, Texas. (AP Photo/Sam Craft)
Sam Craft/Associated Press

If you followed Week 16 action live Saturday, you know that at least for a couple of hours, the projected first overall pick exchanged hands. The Cleveland Browns, who started off the season 0-14, beat the San Diego Chargers, and due to strength-of-schedule tiebreakers, that led to the San Francisco 49ers having the worst record in the NFL, until they beat the Los Angeles Rams.

Every year, the media and fans of lower-level NFL teams have the conversation of "meaningless wins" for non-playoff teams versus the potential of tanking for a higher draft choice. That only makes sense if there is clearly one player who is a cut above the rest of the prospects coming out of the college football world.

This season, unlike the 2016 and 2013 draft classes, there is such a talent: Texas A&M pass-rusher Myles Garrett.

Garrett has been a known commodity in the college football world, as he entered college as the fifth overall recruit in the 2014 high school class and the top line-of-scrimmage defender, per Scout.com's rankings. Even when facing the nation's top high school talent at the Under Armour All-America Game, Garrett separated himself from the pack. ESPN.com's Tom Luginbill called him "the Incredible Hulk."

According to NFL Draft Scout, Garrett measures at over 6'4" and 268 pounds, putting him around the size of Jason Pierre-Paul coming out of South Florida in 2010. Pierre-Paul, at the age of 22, was able to record a 16.5-sack season, making him one of the most productive young edge players in NFL history.

It wasn't until a back surgery and a firework incident that Pierre-Paul's career derailed, though he has seven sacks in 12 games this season and is the eighth-highest-paid defensive end in the NFL on a one-year "prove it" deal, per Spotrac.

When you look at Garrett's Southeastern Conference career with the Aggies, watch what he's able to do on the field from a traits standpoint and realize that he's still just a 20-year-old, it's not out of the question to project the pass-rusher as a potential answer to the "what could have been" that floats around Pierre-Paul's career.

In 2014, he was a freshman All-American. In 2015 and 2016, he's been named to several All-American lists. Heading into what might potentially be his final bowl game, Garrett has 31 career sacks and 47 tackles for a loss.

His career sack number already ranks him in the top 10 of all time in college football, despite the fact that he's been in school for only three years and can't even legally drink alcohol. To put that into perspective, as a fourth-year player, Von Miller, a highly paid defender in the NFL and possibly the best edge-rusher in this era of professional football, recorded only two more sacks than Garrett has at Texas A&M.

The No. 1 skill for a pass-rusher is his get-off, as the goal is to break the relationship between a bookend and a quarterback. Garrett's burst off the line of scrimmage ranks as either the best or second-best in the class behind Alabama's Tim Williams, a situational pass-rusher for the Crimson Tide who weighs in 16 pounds lighter than Garrett.

The second-most important trait is a player's ability to bend the edge, limiting his surface area, not wasting movement and ripping to put a bookend behind him once he's in a winning position with his legs. Garrett, since the moment he stepped on the field for Texas A&M, has been able to execute in this area of his game at a high level.

In the last season, Garrett has developed his ability to use countermoves and stop the run. In his second year under defensive coordinator John Chavis, both in a three-point stance as a defensive end and as a two-point tilted outside linebacker, Garrett has flashed the ability to rush the C-gap hard, and when offensive tackles overset, he now has the awareness to take the inside lane that bookends give up—the shortest path to the quarterback.

You didn't have to watch more than the Aggies' opening game against the UCLA Bruins this season to know that Garrett improved tremendously as a run defender. There was a play against UCLA when Garrett attacked the C-gap, worked across Conor McDermott's face (NFL Draft Scout's eight-ranked senior tackle) to close down the B-gap, saw a back roll outside and made a tackle for a loss with his back to the ball.

There aren't many humans on this planet who can make that play, let alone many 20-year-olds. If you were afforded only two words to describe Garrett, "full package" would have to suffice.

He's by far the easiest defensive end prospect to project to the NFL level since Jadeveon Clowney, who went first overall in the 2014 draft to the Houston Texans and just earned his first Pro Bowl nod as a 23-year-old, despite moving to 3-4 defensive end, a run-heavy position.

Since the 1997 draft, when Garrett was just a one-year-old, the only positions that have been selected with the first overall pick are offensive tackles, quarterbacks and pass-rushers. That's reflective toward where the NFL has been trending for years, and there's no sign of it stopping.

Offensive line depth at the college level has been diminishing for years, as the spread game has taken over like a virus. This year, the top bookend prospects are Cam Robinson of Alabama, who was arrested on gun and marijuana charges in May, according to Michael Casagrande of AL.com; Ryan Ramczyk of Wisconsin, a Division III transfer who may need hip surgery, per the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Bob McGinn; and Garett Bolles of Utah, a junior college transfer with a troubled past.

It would be a stretch to consider any of those players worthy of the first overall pick. In his first mock draft, ESPN.com's Todd McShay listed North Carolina's Mitch Trubisky as the only first-round quarterback in the class, and as a non-top-20 selection at that.

There's virtually no chance that a quarterback or tackle prospect comes off the board with the first overall pick based on today's projections, and history would suggest that the top edge defender, who at the moment is Garrett, is going to be the first overall pick. If he is, whichever team selects him will be making the right decision.

According to Football Outsiders, the Cleveland Browns have a 96.2 percent chance of holding that selection, while the San Francisco 49ers are the only other franchise in contention. Rookie Emmanuel Ogbah leads the Browns with 5.5 sacks on the year, which is good for 49th in the NFL this season, while rookie DeForest Buckner and veteran Ahmad Brooks are tied atop the 49ers' stat sheet with six sacks, which ranks them 44th in the NFL.

Both teams need a lot of help on the edge, and Garrett can immediately enter their lineups as a starter and their most impressive pass-rusher in 2017.

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