By: Dan Dankert
Myles Garrett is one of the best defensive ends we have seen coming out of college. I first started following his progress as a high school star down in Texas where he had already gained national attention. A great player coming out of high school, he was regarded as the number four recruit in his recruiting class. Garrett chose to say in his home state and attend Texas A&M University instead of going to a big name program like, Alabama, Ohio State, LSU, or even Oregon at the time.
Garrett took off as a true freshman in the SEC dominating offensive tackles and recording 11.5 sacks. He was a consensus freshman All-American and second team All-SEC player. Garrett then followed this performance up by having a dominant sophomore year and despite fighting injuries early on in his junior year he ended up being named a first team All-American and All-SEC player. He was able to accomplish this only starting 9 games and battling injuries throughout those 9 games.
When looking at Garrett, it’s important to compare him to other similar players that have been drafted in the past. I wanted stats to be more or less on the same plain so I tried picking players that played in a 4-3 scheme at the professional level. The players included in this comparison with Garrett are: Jadeveon Clowney, Ziggy Ansah, and J.J. Watt. These comparisons are to players that are comparable in the scheme they play and the comparisons are to well above average players in the NFL. In order to tell if Garrett will be one of the best you have to compare him to the best.
Now it’s hard to compare from player to player different statistics. For example J.J. Watt is much worse than everyone else in the 40 yard dash, but destroys everyone but Garrett in the bench press. Its not about one drill or trait, its about the combination of them. If it only took one skill or trait to be a great NFL player John Ross would be going first overall this year.
At a glance Garrett seems like a stronger version of Ziggy Ansah and a more explosive one at that. When I was doing this research and I looked at Ansah’s measurables and compared them to Garrett’s I immediately sent them to a friend of mine in an email and basically called him a much more powerful clone of Ziggy Ansah which is a spot on comparison.
I think looking at J.J. Watt’s draft profile presents something interesting. When I look at his profile Watt is a player who is more built for a 3-4 scheme but a player who despite being large, and strong, he is still able play in a 4-3 scheme thanks to unrelenting power and quickness that defies his size. Garrett seems to be the opposite. His gifts seem well suited for a 4-3 scheme with great speed and explosiveness, but already has unbelievable upper and lower body power. Just as Watt is slightly slower than most 4-3 defensive ends, Garrett finds himself a little small to play in a 3-4 scheme but he definitely could do it if he improves his run defense techniques. He certainly has the athletic skills to do it.
What might be even more mind boggling is that both Clowney and Ansah only did 21 bench reps. For both being freakishly athletic its surprising that they didn’t get at least to the mid 20’s. It’s a little more understandable with Clowney who clearly focuses on speed over raw power, and considering he was pretty tall and lanky for a defensive end coming out of college. In this regard Garrett blows both of them out of the water doing more than 1.5x their reps. For having pretty comparable speed, Garrett is surely more powerful at least in terms of upper body strength than either Clowney or Ansah were coming out of college.
In a league where edge pass rushers are found more in the 3-4 scheme at the OLB position, though it doesn’t suit Garrett as well he could still play OLB pretty well. He would probably be best used standing but up on the line, allowing him to rush on most downs. On run plays, keeping him closer to the line would allow him to hold his ground easier. My gut feeling is he would play very similar to Clay Matthews in this respect. Matthews is great at rushing the quarterback but seems a bit out of place when he isn’t allowed to play instinctively and aggressively.
What concerns me about Garrett was in writing this article, I watched film from the Tennessee, Auburn, and LSU games, and outside of the Auburn game, it appeared that Garrett was almost never trying. It was only on rare occasions, mostly 3rd and longs that he really flew off the line, otherwise he seemed lethargic off the line and refused to chase the ball carrier. That being said, during the Auburn game he played like the player I was expecting to see on tape. He was beating double teams, and being disruptive in the backfield on run and pass plays.
It has been said that one of the biggest knocks on Garrett is that the majority of his production comes against bad teams and that he doesn’t play as well versus good SEC teams. Now I think there is some truth to this and I think parts of that statement are unfounded. In the LSU game, the only time Garrett made any sort of meaningful play came because he was matched up on a tight end. He handled the LSU tight end several times and was very disruptive, but versus the LSU left tackle he seemed to play average, he didn’t come over as a once in a lifetime player against him that’s for sure. To Garrett’s defense though, he was also double teamed most 3rd downs, with either both the guard and tackle, tackle and tight end, or running back and tackle accounting for him. Against good competition beating double teams is difficult and that is understandable but his effort in those game films was much more concerning to me than his inability to make future starters in the NFL look bad.
However during the Auburn game I saw several different times where Garrett fought through double teams pretty easily. It could very well be that against Tennessee and LSU Garrett was supposed to “stay home” a bit more than normal and the game plan might have been a little bit more rigid than normal and he wasn’t allowed to just “pin his ears back” and make tackles as analysts often describe pass rushers.
Overall I think Garrett is likely a perennial All-Pro player on the right team with enough talent that doesn’t leave him continually double teamed and game planned for. I think his ceiling drops quite a bit if he goes to Cleveland, in fact there is a good chance it would ruin his career.
I liken this to when Mario Williams was drafted by the Texans and for at least his first couple years, Williams was double or triple teamed on nearly every play, I truly believe that Mario Williams on a good team in the prime of his career would have been a consistent All-Pro performer and may have even been able to reach a Hall of Fame-esque career. I would hate to see that happen to Garrett.
I would, however, love to see Cleveland trade the pick down to pretty much anyone. Tennessee could be a candidate to move up. Tennessee has 2 first round picks, and 2 third round picks in this year’s draft. Giving up the number 5 overall pick, a second round pick next year, and one or both of their third round picks this year would be worth snagging a player who is already likely at a pro-bowl caliber. A slight problem is Tennessee does play a 3-4 defensive scheme which would require Garrett to transition to OLB which isn’t ideal. After Cleveland is San Francisco, if he were to go to San Francisco he would be play in another 3-4 scheme, where he would also transition to OLB.
I don’t see much of a scenario right now that sees Garrett falling lower than 2nd, unless both Mitchell Trubisky and Deshaun Watson’s draft stock both increase significantly, but that is unlikely in my opinion. If he doesn’t go first, and San Francisco thinks that an in scheme player is better than an out of scheme Garrett look for teams to aggressively try and trade up for him.
Ultimately Garrett has potential to be great but I don’t feel that at the end of his career we will be seriously considering him one of the best players at his position in the past 30 or so years. That being said, his overall production could see him getting into the Hall of Fame though I wouldn’t say that is entirely likely.
We already described his amazing combine performance, which should speak for itself here.
Pass Rushing: A
His athleticism allows him to run through, around, and over left tackles. Scouts have said he needs to develop his technique more which shouldn’t be overly difficult with NFL coaching at his disposal.
Run Defense: B
Probably his biggest weakness is his run defense, but from looking at tape that weakness could be effort related more so than skill related.
Amazing bloodlines, both his parents were amazing parents and Garrett has followed that tradition. Effort is a concern however.
Overall Grade: A
Quicker and much stronger clone of Ziggy Ansah.