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Texas A&M Football

Great Expectations: Projecting Myles Garrett's NFL future

April 26, 2017

If Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett is the first player selected in the NFL draft on Thursday night, he’ll join a group of 10. The Cleveland Browns, who have the first selection, will hope that he joins a group of three.

Only nine defensive ends have been the first overall pick in the history of the NFL draft. Only two of them – Buffalo’s Bruce Smith and Tampa Bay’s Lee Roy Selmon – reached the Hall of Fame. The Browns are obviously hopeful Garrett has that kind of career.

That is, if the Browns draft him. Recent reports have suggested the Browns might draft North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky with the first pick. NFL Network Analyst Mike Mayock said that would be a mistake.

“I've been on record from day one saying I think they have to take him at number one,” Mayock said. “You can continue to try to move down the board all you want and pick up more picks, and I get that and I respect that. But at some point you better start taking some difference-makers, and I think he's a difference-maker.”

Smith and Selmon were certainly difference-makers.

Smith, from Virginia Tech, was an 11-time Pro Bowl selection and was twice named NFL Defensive Player of the Year during a 19-year career in which he accumulated 200 sacks and forced 43 fumbles. Selmon, out of Oklahoma, was a six-time Pro Bowl selection and was named the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year in 1979. He was credited with 78.5 sacks and 28.5 forced fumbles in a nine-year career.

Alex Parker, TexAgs If the Cleveland Browns take Garrett with the first pick, he'll become the tenth DE taken No. 1 overall.
Most of the other defensive ends drafted with the first pick had decent NFL careers.

But only two had brilliant careers, although the jury is still out on Jadeveon Clowney, who was taken No. 1 by the Houston Texans in 2014.

Other defensive ends taken first include Notre Dame’s Walt Patulski by Buffalo in 1972, Tampa’s John Matuszak by the Houston Oilers in 1973, Tennessee State’s Ed “Too Tall” Jones in 1974, Penn State’s Courtney Brown by Cleveland in 2000, North Carolina State’s Mario Williams by the Houston Texans in 2006 and South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney by the Texans in 2014.

Most had solid careers. Some, particularly Patulski and Brown, were rather disappointing. Clowney’s career path is up in the air, though last season he showed signs of developing into a dominant pass-rusher.

Mayock said he expects Garrett, who posted 31 sacks and seven forced fumbles in his three-season A&M career, to have a pro career that more closely resembles those of Smith and Selmon.

“If you compare him to Von Miller, who came out of the same college four or five years ago, this kid has the same explosion off the ball, the same bend, the ability to pressure a quarterback. And he's 20 pounds heavier,” Mayock said. “So I think his upside is he should be a Pro Bowl defensive end. He should be a huge difference-maker in the NFL in the pass game. The only way that doesn't happen is one of two reasons: one, he gets hurt, or, number two, he doesn't want it bad enough. But his physical talent is awesome.”

Skeptics like SEC Network Analyst Booger McFarland and former NFL star Warren Sapp have express doubts that Garrett should be the first player taken. They’ve suggested he takes plays off, doesn’t fare well against the run and does not dominate opponents. Mayock disagrees.

“The more tape you watch, you see offensive line sliding toward him, taking tight ends into the running backs into his size, and he had to be double- and triple-teamed all year long. And he had to do it playing through a high-ankle sprain,” Mayock said. “He missed two games with that. Played through it with Tennessee and Alabama.

“So from my perspective, did I always see the same consistent explosion off the ball? No, I didn't. But I think there's a reason behind that, and I think it's because of the ankle.”

The ankle is now healthy. The projections for Garrett’s career are healthy, too.

So healthy, in fact, that he should be the first player drafted.
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