If Myles Garrett is the NFL Draft’s first overall pick, the situation could call for confetti or a brown bag, depending on your sense of humor.
If you’re the smiles-and-sunshine type, the former Texas A&M defensive end going No. 1 would be a big boon for him and Aggieland. Garrett would be the sixth former SEC player taken as the top selection since 2004, when former Ole Miss quarterback Eli Manning began the gold rush.
But could Garrett survive life with — criminy! — the Cleveland Browns?
“A lot of people think that going to the Browns is a death sentence,” said John Kosko, an NFL and college football analyst for Pro Football Focus. “But obviously, if you’re a good player, you can succeed anywhere. And you look at guys like Joe Thomas — despite all that’s going on around him, he’s still a Hall of Fame left tackle. So (Garrett) is somebody, no matter where he goes — even if it’s a 3-4 or 4-3 (defense) — he’s versatile enough to adapt to anywhere he goes.”
Versatility and a heavy dose of patience will be critical in Garrett’s search for victories on Sundays, if he ends up with a bumbling Browns franchise that hasn’t enjoyed many wins itself in recent years.
FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland’s home, resembled a radioactive lagoon last season during the Browns’ 1-15 implosion under coach Hue Jackson. The Browns have just 3 — 3! — winning seasons with 2 playoff berths in their past 24 campaigns.
But experts have an optimistic view of Garrett’s potential Cleveland career, if the marriage between the prolific pass rusher and the poor, sad-sack organization happens. On Wednesday, ESPN NFL Draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. placed Garrett to Cleveland at No. 1 as part of a run of 14 former SEC players snapped up in the first round on April 27.
Myles to go before he sleeps
Garrett’s task in Northeast Ohio would be this: Make sure talent trumps any possible tire fire around him.
“Myles, I have no doubt about him,” said Olin Buchanan, a staff writer for TexAgs.com, a popular Texas A&M website. “As long as he’s healthy, he’s a phenomenal player with just the right approach. He’s not one of these guys who wants a whole lot of attention cast on him. He just goes out and plays and plays hard. And he’s so fast off the ball, and he’s so strong.
“When you think about some of the offensive tackles he’s gone up against in the SEC in recent years, I thought he played really well against (former Ole Miss offensive tackle) Laremy Tunsil. I know he’s done real well against (former Alabama offensive tackle) Cameron Robinson. So he has played well and been productive against some really good guys.”
That production allowed Garrett to craft an impressive resume. A 6-foot-5, 270-pound twister off the edge, Garrett had 141 tackles, 47 tackles for loss and 31 sacks in 3 years with the Aggies. He had 33 tackles, 15 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks this past season while dealing with a left leg injury for part of the fall.
For a pass rusher to become a productive professional, experts say, he must be more switchblade than butter knife. It’s essential for a defensive end to develop multiple ways to slice offensive lines.
The positive news for Garrett? He already has gained the goods. The sharp edge, too.
“He can win in a variety of different ways,” said Gordon McGuinness, lead SEC writer for Pro Football Focus. “He’s got the speed and burst to challenge on the outside. He can power through offensive tackles. He can counter inside. He can spin. He does pretty much everything you want to see him do well. His first step is incredibly quick.
“He already has several different ways that he wins, and that’s the kind of thing that should allow him to have a much bigger impact as a rookie.”
Garrett could have the coveted “it” factor to deliver a major impact early.
After watching him in recent years, Buchanan said Garrett “just doesn’t want to be a millionaire.” The quest for greatness drives Garrett, Buchanan said, and the right focus will be essential if the player confronts rocky terrain in Cleveland.
Creating a greater Garrett
There’s room for Garrett to evolve. He’s knocked for his run defense — “He’s not a great run defender,” McGuinness said. “He occasionally gets caught up field a little bit in the running game” — and Garrett could afford to build more strength before facing hulking NFL linemen.
But the talent is there. Buchanan said Texas A&M coaches measured Garrett’s burst off the line of scrimmage, and the defensive end’s pop was faster than the jump shown by Aggies wide receivers.
Of course, skill without discipline is like a sprint car without brakes. The NFL is littered with once-promising careers left smoldering to the side, and it will be on Garrett to avoid that fate.
“Unlike some other players from A&M … he will never embarrass the franchise that drafts him,” Buchanan said, referencing former Aggies quarterback Johnny Manziel, who flamed out with the Browns after being taken 22nd overall in 2014. “That will never happen.”
But will the Browns keep Garrett from growing into all he can be, if NFL commissioner Roger Goodell makes their union official in Philadelphia?
“Any team you go to, if you’re a good player, and you have the right work ethic, the right attitude, if you put in the time, you’re going to succeed in the NFL, especially a player of Garrett’s caliber,” Kosko said. “Any team that he goes to, it doesn’t matter who it is, (even) with the Browns being as bad as they’ve been for the past 20 years, he’s going to be perfectly fine. He’s going to have some veterans around him. He’s going to go up against Joe Thomas in practice on a daily basis. … He’ll be fine. There’s no reason for him not to develop like he should.”
Garrett’s road ahead might not be smooth, if his starting line is found with the Browns. But with the right drive, it’s possible for Garrett to plow through obstacles in his way.
Then, perhaps, chasing confetti in Cleveland won’t seem like such a wild idea after all.