Looks like a safe pick to plug and contribute quickly
Run defense improved, but could stand to get better
Holding up against downhill rushing attacks
Summary: In any NFL draft, there are always teams that say they want to take the best player available and the top talents should go at the top of the draft without reaching for a position. By that rationale, Garrett should be the No. 1-overall pick for the 2017 NFL Draft because he is the best player available. He was atop my big board all season, but infinitely more important than my opinion is that NFL teams have had Garrett as the top NFL prospect throughout the 2016 season and into the new year. Garrett is a freak athlete who plays one of the most important positions in the NFL.
Jadeveon Clowney was a freshman phenom who took college football by storm immediately after making the jump from high school. With Clowney in the NFL, Garrett took up that challenge as a freshman in 2014 with 11.5 sacks with 53 tackles and 14 for a loss. That sack total broke the NCAA freshman record previously set by Clowney.
As a sophomore, Garrett was even better and had his best season. In 2015, he recorded 59 tackles with 12.5 sacks, 19.5 tackles for a loss, five forced fumbles, two passes batted and an interception.
Garrett's 2016 season was marred by an ankle injury after a cheap shot by Arkansas offensive tackle Dan Skipper. Garrett missed some time, but he played through the injury and finished with 33 tackles, 15 for a loss, 8.5 sacks and two forced fumbles. Even though he was less than 100 percent, the junior was still a force on the edge who had to be accounted for.
Garrett has blinding speed off the edge and is a natural pass-rusher with rare explosiveness. He could have been in the running for the No. 1-overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft if he had been able to declare.
There is no doubt that Garrett is freakish athletic. He has ridiculous speed and a developed body with natural strength. The junior has a tremendous first-step out of his stance. After his get-off, Garrett quickly accelerates to turn the corner. He has the ability to sink his hips and bend around the tackles to get pointed to the quarterback. Garrett has good balance and natural strength to fight off blockers. There are times where he also flashed speed to power and pushed offensive tackles into the pocket after getting upfield.
Aside from his blinding speed and strength, Garrett has instincts to go for forced fumbles and batted passes. He isn't just a great athlete; he's a football player who happens to be a great athlete. Garrett can redirect extremely well with superb pursuit skills. He has active hands to fight off blockers, and a motor that doesn't underwhelm.
Garrett isn't a finished product, so there are things he can improve on. There were plays in the run game that saw him get pushed backward, although his run defense was improved as a junior. If Garrett stays in a 4-3 defense, he could use more strength for holding his gap against downhill runs. He also could get in trouble in this regard by standing up too high. While Garrett is a blinding edge rusher, he should continue to work on pass-rushing moves for use against NFL offensive tackles.
For the next level, Garrett fits any defense. His best fit could come as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense as he would then have help in run defense on the edge with a five-technique defensive end lining up over the tackle.
For the NFL, Garrett has great potential to be an impact-making pass rusher in the mold of Von Miller or Robert Quinn.
Player Comparison: Chandler Jones. In some ways, Garrett reminds me of a bigger version of Von Miller, but for the NFL a closer comparison could be Jones. Jones and Garrett are almost identical in size, and Jones (6-5, 265) is a pass-rushing demon. Jones is a speed rusher who has topped 11 sacks in three of the last four seasons. I could see Garrett being an edge defender similar to Jones, but even better.
NFL Matches: Cleveland, San Francisco, Chicago, Jacksonville and Tennessee
The first 10 teams drafting in the 2017 NFL Draft could definitely consider drafting Garrett. With his versatility for a 4-3 or 3-4 defense, he fits just about any team. He should end up as a top-5 selection.
The Browns have the first shot at Garrett, and if they are taking the best player available, then Garrett should be their man. They drafted edge defenders Emmanuel Ogbah and Carl Nassib last year, but all teams need three edge rushers. Garrett is at another level compared to those two.
If the Bears don't take a quarterback, Garrett would be in play for them even though they have some quality edge rushers in Leonard Floyd and Willie Young. Garrett and Floyd could form a tremendous duo.
The Jaguars' defense could be set for years to come with Garrett rushing on the onside with Dante Fowler and Yannick Ngakoue. Garrett could be a difference-maker in Jacksonville.
Tennessee holds the fifth pick of the 2017 NFL Draft thanks to the Rams trading up for Jared Goff last year. The Titans have some veteran outside rushers in Derrick Morgan and Brian Orakpo, and there is no way the franchise could pass on Garrett if he fell to No. 5. Most likely, Garrett will go in the top two or three picks depending on what happens with the quarterback prospects.