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Myles Garrett isn't worth the No. 1 pick

The Texas A&M product is projected to be the first player off the board in the 2017 NFL draft. Retired NFL defensive end Stephen White sees a player who is good, not great.

NCAA Football: Southwest Classic-Arkansas vs Texas A&M Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Laremy Tunsil was not my top offensive tackle of the players that I did a draft profile on last year in large part due to his performance against Texas A & M. To be more precise, it was his performance against TAMU edge rusher Myles Garrett that had me a little spooked. Garrett didn't really get that many one-on-one pass rush opportunities against Tunsil, but he still embarrassed him twice. Both of those wins were decisive and really ugly for a guy who aspired to be the top tackle taken in the draft.

And then came the gas mask video leak right before the draft, and we know how that story ended.

The fact that Tunsil had played so well in every other game that I watched for his evaluation let me know that he was indeed a talented offensive tackle, regardless of his performance against Garrett. But that game was one of the only times I got to see Tunsil go one-on-one against a guy who was from all appearances a pretty good pass rusher, and he didn't fare so well.

Considering the fact that our own staff here at SB Nation has put forth this kick ass mock draft presentation showing who looks to be going where in the draft, it’s clear that this guy I hadn't heard of before watching Tunsil's tape, Garrett, seems to be a almost consensus pick to go number one, whether the Browns keep that pick or trade it.

I was really looking forward to watching his tape for my first breakdown and documenting how much he had progressed as an edge rusher in a year to the point where everyone was this impressed with him.

Yeah, about that ...

*long exaggerated sigh*

*pinches bridge of nose*

*mutters "ah, fuck it"*

I was a bit underwhelmed.

Now, you gotta understand that after last year and all the hell I took for my draft profile of Joey Bosa — yes, the same Joey Bosa who ended up winning Defensive Rookie Of The Year — I really wasn't trying to go down that road again. I stand by my assessment of Bosa's college tape too. While he did play very well his rookie season, my contention that whoever he was his rookie year is likely who he'll be for the rest of his career, based on the fact that he has already maxed out with his technique and his athleticism in my opinion.

That's okay, because if Bosa puts up his rookie numbers for the next seven to 10 years I don't think anybody will complain that he was drafted that high.

That experience with Bosa inspired me to take an even closer look at Garrett's tape than usual since he didn't blow me away at first glance. I wanted to make absolutely sure about my assessment of Garrett's skills before I subjected myself to the same kind of bullshit.

Since I don't have access to all-22 for college football games, I use the next best thing for my profiles and go to Draft Breakdown, where they have the TV copy of a bunch of top prospects cut up and ready to go. For the purposes of this breakdown I watched Garrett play against UCLA, Auburn, Tennessee, Alabama, and LSU. Those represented the first, third, sixth, seventh, and twelfth games on TAMU's schedule last season, respectively.

I ended up watching all five of those games at least four times and a few of them at least five. I even did a bit of research this time, something I normally don't do because I like the film to speak for itself. I discovered something that really changed my opinion on how he played in one particular game. It turns out that Garrett hurt his lower leg in the game prior to the Tennessee game. I hadn't noticed his limp watching the first time, but rewatching the game, it was pretty noticeable. And so I went from feeling like he was loafing quite a bit, to actually admiring his hustle with a bad wheel on a few plays.

I've had a bad wheel a time or two as a defensive lineman, and let me tell you, it’s no fun at all trying to play through them. It usually involves a needle and lots of grit — word to PFT Commenter — so I really did come away impressed with some of the plays that Garrett was able to make in that game even though he was hobbled.

I wanted to be as fair as possible to avoid any insinuation that I'm only criticizing him to appear contrary to popular opinion or get attention. Nothing could be further from the truth. Honestly, it'd be great if nobody asked to interview me at all after this column and that any tweets directed to me on the subject would be calm and reasoned.

Yeah right. Who am I kidding?

Athleticism and moves

At the end of the day I happen to believe those lying eyes of mine when it comes to Myles Garrett. And as Coach Tomlin would say, I'm not going to write in my fears.

What my lying eyes are telling me is that after all that watching — and re-watching —his tape, Garrett appears to me to be a very good player, but not the kind of top-overall pick talent that I've been accustomed to seeing in my previous three years of doing draft profiles for SB Nation.

He is the first guy whose tape I'm watching for this particular draft class, so it could very well be that he is the best of this particular class. But there’s just something missing. Regardless of how fan boys take it, I'm not going to lie about what I see on tape.

That isn't to say that I didn't see anything that I liked about Garrett. Just like with Bosa, much to the contrary!

First of all, his athleticism is readily evident on tape. He also utilized a wide array of pass rush moves in five games, which is rarer than you probably think and something that definitely impressed me.

I've seen him use long arms.

I've seen him use bullrushes, quite effectively I might add.

The bullrush thing was a bit of a surprise to me simply because he isn't the biggest edge rusher you will see, but he had really good leverage and did a great job of staying low and exploding into offensive tackles at times.

He also had some decent inside moves.

I also saw him spinning and getting pressure.

I also saw him win with speed rushes.

And sometimes he did a combination of power and speed.

Although I must admit that I was expecting to see Garrett use his speed rushes a little more than I actually ended up seeing on tape from him.

But one of the tricky things about evaluating Garrett's film is that it left me wondering what his coaches were asking him to do on certain plays. On some plays that can make a huge difference in my evaluation of what Garrett actually did.

For instance:

If Garrett was told to get upfield and disregard all other keys when he sees the quarterback and running back going through a read option mesh point, then I couldn't very well knock him for disregarding his keys and the kick out block from the backside guard or tight end on a trap play that has a read option mesh point look to it. However, if he wasn't coached to do that then he would pretty much get a zero from me in awareness on Madden.

In the former scenario Garrett is just doing as told and trying to make a play. In the latter scenario he is a blind dog in the meat house, and opposing offensive coordinators in the NFL will look to exploit him with all manner of trap plays on the next level.

See what I mean?

At the same time, some of those plays can show me something whether I know what Garrett was coached to do or not. I don't have to know the defensive call if I see Garrett explode upfield and basically tackle both the running back and quarterback at the mesh point before the kick out block can get to him. That's impressive as hell, regardless.

And he did it more than once in the games that I watched.

I went that extra mile to try to get to the bottom of the mystery of whether Garrett was coached to get upfield all the time or not, and I turned up the volume while I watched the tape. I normally keep the volume off because I feel like announcers can influence how I see plays and players, whether I am conscious of it or not. This time I was just curious to see if they had anything to say about it, and sure enough during the Alabama game the broadcast team revealed that he was coached to get upfield to the mesh point on those plays, so I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt on it.

Effort questions

I do need to admit to one bias of mine that worked against Garrett when it comes to my assessment of him. I'm a stickler for effort. I don't have a problem with guys needing to get coached up on their technique because not everybody gets to have a great defensive line coach in college (or in the pros for that matter, but you ain't heard that from me), but nobody should need to get coached up on effort by the time they are ready to enter the league.

That's how I was coached in college and the NFL, and it’s what I continue to believe.

Garrett doesn't have the greatest motor in the world.

That's probably an understatement.

In all but one of the games that I watched, the Auburn game, Garrett didn't seem to always finish plays. In the UCLA game for instance, I had him with eight different plays where I thought his effort or finish on those plays was questionable. In the Alabama game I had him with five such plays. In the LSU game he had four such plays.

And look, Garrett was productive in most of the five games I used for his breakdown. In the UCLA game he had a sack, three pressures and two tackles for a loss. Garrett also had five tackles for a loss in the Bama game alone.

But let's not act like Garrett was doing a lot of his damage against really good offensive lines. I didn't watch Tennessee games, my alma mater, live for the last year and a half because I thought I was a jinx (don't ask), but I did watch most of their games very closely the day after on DVR. I know good and well that our offensive line was trash for most of the season. For a guy who is supposed to be the top overall pick in the draft, I would have expected him to dominate them, injury or no injury.

While Garrett was certainly productive in those games, his effort was so poor at times that it was hard to really get excited about some of the good things he did do, and at least some of his production was, for lack of a better term, practically gimmies.

Auburn and their whole offensive scheme was hot garbage for instance, so it wasn't surprising to see Garrett making a lot of plays in their backfield.

But then when you see Garrett just loafing his ass off of the very first play of overtime against UCLA, it’s hard to even remember any of those TFLs against Auburn.

That shit was embarrassing. I don't think any top player would want to have a play like that one on film where their defensive coordinator could literally just run it back and forth and back and forth, over and over again in front of the rest of the defense to give them a visual example of what is not acceptable effort from a dude who is supposed to be the best player in the draft. I never wanted to be that negative example that a coach uses as a teaching tool to show my teammates what not to do back when I played. I imagine I wasn't alone in feeling that way.

The only thing that saved Garrett from that play being shown on a loop before this draft is the fact that TAMU wound up winning that game. So while I know that he has a ton of ability after watching his film, Garrett's effort, or lack thereof at times, still kind of sours me on the kid a little bit.

And I have to say that if Jadeveon Clowney's effort on tape gave draft evaluators the vapors three years ago, I'd imagine Garrett has those some folks about ready to pull their hair out at times, too.

I'm just sayin’.

Effective against the run

I am willing to admit that, effort aside, Garrett was surprisingly effective against the run. I say surprisingly because these days when you have an edge rusher who isn't built like the Hulk and over 290 pounds, they aren't always the most sturdy guys when it comes to taking on blockers in the running game. Especially guys who are seen primarily as pass rushers.

Now, yeah, some of it was those plays when he just shot up the field without paying attention to his run keys, but I also saw him whupping LSU's tight end quite a few times on tape.

Hell, Garrett straight up slung a Tennessee tight end out of his way to get a tackle for a loss against us. So this notion that he is soft against the run?

I didn't really see it.

Garrett might be a lot of things, but he ain't scared.

So while Garrett did have effort issues on tape, he also was indeed a playmaker both against the run and the pass. Hell, the guy had five TFLs against Alabama, and that isn't something you see every day.

What makes Garrett special?

Garrett definitely has the potential to be a good NFL player. That part is is undeniable.

What I didn't see on his tape were any special plays from Garrett, where I would potentially see him do something that very few players could do.

When I watched Clowney play he certainly had a lot of flaws, but he would do things that would just make me cuss under my breath when I saw them. Aaron Donald was the same way on film. And he had ridiculously good technique, but I knew his height would scare away evaluators. Khalil Mack did it, but some of it was against lower level competition. I wasn't sure about anything except how he gloriously dominated Ohio State from damn near everywhere on the defensive line. Leonard Williams and Vic Beasley flashed "special" ability on their tapes.*

It kind of jumped off the screen at me from all of those players. I couldn’t have ignored it if I tried.

Garrett had pretty good pass rushing technique and he also made a lot of plays in the backfield, but when it comes to “wow” plays, they were few and far between on the tape that I watched.

Garrett reminds me of Anthony Barr out of UCLA who has played well as a 4-3 linebacker in Minnesota the last three seasons, injuries aside. You can look at my draft profile of Barr and see they look similar in how they run and their mannerisms on the field. Roughly the same size too in college, too.

The major difference between the two in college is that while Barr played all over the place for UCLA, including with his hand in the dirt and also standing up, Garrett was at right edge rusher a majority of the time. He had a few plays here and there inside as a three technique, where he did very well I might add, and one measly play at left edge rusher in the games that I watched. All the other times you could find him as the right edge defender.

That makes it harder to discern how much scheme versatility he would have relative to Barr who made a successful transition to an off the ball 4-3 linebacker. Because they are so physically similar, I wouldn't put it past Garrett to be able to play well off the ball too if the team that drafts him wants to do that.

I usually would rather see a guy do it before making that assumption, however.

So to recap, I definitely see Myles Garrett as being a first-round pick. He will be a quality player for seven to 10 years, provided he stays healthy.

But his effort bothers me. I just don't see a player on tape who would be a hands down first pick in the draft in most years. There is a lot to like about the kid, but I just didn't see anything special when I watched his film. At the end of the day what caught my eye about him was still just two plays against Tunsil, and sometimes initial impressions are just flat out wrong.

I may well be wrong about Garrett. If I am, I'm sure y'all will waste no time in pointing it out to me. But that's what the tape is telling me about him, so that's what I'm telling you.

Sue me.

*I haven't yet watched Tennessee edge rusher Derek Barnett's tape for the purpose of doing a breakdown on him, but I have watched him enough to know that his bend around the corner is in fact "special." Garrett's is pretty good too, but I saw Barnett pass rush from all over the place.

That isn't to say that Barnett definitely should be drafted higher than Garrett ... just yet. But I know special when I see it, and in the games I've watched them, Barnett has special abilities and Garrett, comparatively, does not. Also Barnett's technique is better, but, shhhhh, we’ll get to that later.