Take a look around early Individual Defensive Player (IDP) rankings on the defensive line, and you’ll see the usual suspects. After tallying 20 sacks and winning his second straight Defensive Player of the Year award, the Los Angeles Rams’ Aaron Donald is the consensus top dog. Houston’s J.J. Watt gets a vote here and there after piling up 16 sacks in a bounce-back 2018 campaign; so does the Los Angeles Chargers’ Joey Bosa.
All are fantastic players and excellent fantasy options.
But there’s another player who hasn’t really been mentioned as the potential No. 1 defensive lineman in IDP leagues in 2019 — a young edge-rusher on the precipice of a career season that will vault him into the ranks of the NFL’s best pass-rushers. An immensely talented defensive end whose situation has improved quite a bit in 2019.
That player is Cleveland defensive end Myles Garrett.
Garrett’s talent has never been in question. There’s a reason he was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. Here’s what one NFL defensive coordinator told Robert Klemko of Fox Sports after Garrett tore up that year’s combine with a workout that included a 4.6-second 40-yard dash at 272 pounds.
“I don’t have a player comparison for what I just saw. He looked like Wolverine,” the defensive coordinator said. “Assuming the medical is good and he doesn’t tell (Cleveland) he wants to be (play for Dallas) when (Cleveland) interview(s) him, he’s it.”
He didn’t, and Cleveland did.
Garrett’s athleticism and first step is on par with athletic freaks like Houston’s Jadeveon Clowney. A camp injury slowed his adaptation to the NFL a bit and kept him from a full-time role early in his rookie season. But to say that Garrett made an immediate impact in the NFL is an understatement. Garrett notched the first sack of his NFL career on his first NFL snap and had two sacks in his first game.
Garrett missed five games as a rookie and finished the season with a relatively modest seven sacks. But in his second NFL season, Garrett became the defensive force everyone expected. Playing in all 16 games for Cleveland, Garrett came within half a sack of the franchise record, adding 44 total tackles and three forced fumbles. He was named to the Pro Bowl and finished inside DL1 territory in Fantasy Sharks Default IDP Scoring.
Still just 23 years old, Garrett’s only starting to scratch the surface of what he can do as a player. And as Josh Edwards wrote for 247 Sports, new Cleveland defensive coordinator Steve Wilks believes that Garrett will take another step forward in his third season.
“Moving forward, I want him – because he is so talented – to know how to use all of his assets … It is that time. First overall pick. Very talented individual. Played well last year, and I think you are only going to see continued growth out of him each and every year,” Wilks said.
Garrett’s 2018 season is all the more impressive when you consider he piled up those 13.5 sacks while receiving almost constant double-teams. Garrett had over a third of Cleveland’s sacks as a team last year, and the next-closest player to Garrett was defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi with 5.5.
That’s going to change in 2019.
Cleveland general manager John Dorsey was very aggressive in adding pieces around Garrett in the offseason. The first step was the addition of defensive end Olivier Vernon, who has 51 career sacks in seven seasons and made the Pro Bowl last year. Then the team added defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, who was the 2013 Defensive Rookie of the Year and made the Pro Bowl the following season. Cleveland has also hosted three-time first-team All-Pro Gerald McCoy for a free agent visit and may yet sign him.
Even if McCoy doesn’t land in northern Ohio, a Garrett/Richardson/Larry Ogunjobi/Vernon front four would be among the league’s best defensive lines on paper. Adding McCoy to the mix would just make the group that much more formidable.
Wilks said he expects the additions of Vernon and Richardson to pay big dividends this season.