It’s still very early in draft season, and with the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine and pro days still to come there will be plenty of jockeying for position on draft boards. However, in the early going at least there’s very little question who the top overall prospect in the Class of 2017 is.
That honor belongs to Texas A&M edge rusher Myles Garrett.
“Garrett is the most gifted prospect in this class,” Rob Rang of CBS Sports wrote, “though his production (33 tackles, including 15.5 for loss and 8.5 sacks) was way down in 2016 in comparison to his first two seasons (53-14-11.5 in 2014 and 59-19.5-12.5 in 2015). An ankle injury robbed Garrett of his trademark explosiveness for much of his junior campaign but he offers a Pro Bowl-caliber combination of initial quickness, change-of-direction and length, projecting as an immediate difference-maker as a defensive end or stand-up edge rusher.”
Steve Palozzolo of Pro Football Focus agreed that the 6’5″ 262-pounder is this year’s No. 1 overall player. “He’s an excellent pass-rusher,” Palozzolo said, “capable of winning with speed, power and counters, all adding up to incredible three-year production that includes 31 sacks, 35 QB hits and 99 hurries. He’s ranked among the top pass-rushers in the nation in each of those three seasons, but it’s his work against the run that we wanted to see him improve coming into 2016. He did just that, taking on blocks better than ever while continuing to disrupt with his quickness off the ball, all adding up to a much-improved 87.8 grade against the run that ranked third among the nation’s edge defenders.”
Rang’s colleague Dane Brugler compared Garrett to nine-time Pro Bowler Demarcus Ware of the Denver Broncos. “Garrett is longer with more growth potential,” Brugler said, “but he and Ware are both outstanding athletes off the edge who have the savvy and natural gifts to be remembered as NFL greats.”
The praise isn’t completely universal, but as Ben Baby of The Dallas Morning News reported Garrett dismissed concerns that he padded his stats against inferior opponents while struggling a bit against SEC foes. “They can say I stat-padded, but in big games, when I was healthy, I didn’t come up short,” Garrett told KIKK-AM. “When I was completely healthy, I made sure that everybody knew that I was the best player when I was on the field.”
Given Garrett’s status as the consensus No. 1 prospect in the 2017 NFL Draft, there’s been no shortage of buzz connecting him to the Cleveland Browns, who possess the first overall pick. ESPN’s Todd McShay slotted Garrett to the Browns in his February 8 mock draft.
“Yes, the Browns need a quarterback,” McShay said, “but they have a lot of other needs, too. Garrett, who has the tools to develop into an elite pass-rusher and a very disruptive run defender, is just too good for Cleveland to pass up for any of the quarterbacks in this class. Don’t forget: The Browns could still trade for Jimmy Garoppolo or draft a QB with the 12th overall pick.”
Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller did the same on February 6. “Garrett is a 6’5″, 270-pound team-changing presence coming off the right edge of the defense,” Miller wrote. While he can’t throw touchdowns, Garrett’s elite athleticism and pass-rushing moves will do a great job limiting them. Years of bad drafting can’t be undone overnight, but selecting Garrett instead of forcing a pick at quarterback is the right move.”
Had Garrett been mocked to Cleveland a year ago, it would have been a kick in the teeth for IDP owners — another young and talented edge rusher likely relegated to positional eligibility as a linebacker. But with the admittedly puzzling hire of Gregg Williams as the new defensive coordinator in Cleveland the Browns will be switching to a 4-3 scheme in 2017 — meaning Garrett would play with his hand in the dirt and maintain positional eligibility as a defensive lineman.
In 2016 we saw a rookie lineman (Joey Bosa of the San Diego Chargers) pile up 10.5 sacks and finish fifth among all DL on a fantasy points per game basis in Fantasy Sharks Default IDP Scoring. Given the learning curve of edge-rushers entering the NFL expecting a repeat of that performance isn’t realistic. But Garrett is generally thought to have a higher ceiling as a player than Bosa entering the NFL. Assuming he lands in Cleveland (or another 4-3) team with a clear path to early snaps, Garrett has the potential to serve as an upside DL2 in redraft IDP formats.
In dynasties, as things stand today, it’s hard to imagine him not being the first lineman off the board in rookie drafts.