It’s finally official now — the Cleveland Browns have taken Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 NFL draft, despite rumors they may take Mitchell Trubisky. The Browns tried to play coy about whether they’d select Garrett, but we knew it was coming all along.
Garrett even gave the Browns a playful warning before the draft.
“If you don't draft me No. 1, I will punish your team for the next 10 to 12 years,” he told ESPN the Magazine. It seems those weren’t dice they wanted to roll.
Garrett has been the assumed No. 1 draft pick for a while now. He’s a special talent, and his jaw-dropping performance at the NFL Combine only bolstered the hype. His skills on the football field were remarkable, and his measurables were so staggering, it became hard to compare him to anybody, even Jadeveon Clowney and Khalil Mack.
Garrett, a two-time first-team All-SEC player, was a unanimous All-American in 2016. Injuries limited him to 10 games during his junior year, but he still recorded 8.5 sacks, 33 tackles, with 15 of them for loss.
His numbers don’t tell the whole story of why he was the top pick in the draft this year, though.
Why did the Browns make Garrett the No. 1 pick?
After a 1-15 season, the Browns had the first pick, and their choice of any player, in the draft this year. They could have elected to draft a quarterback, and still could later in the first round with the 12th pick. After all, the Browns have had 26 starting quarterbacks since 1999. Instead, with the No. 1 pick, they went with the best player available.
Garrett is the first non-quarterback to be drafted first overall since Jadeveon Clowney in 2014. Like Clowney, Garrett is a premium pass rusher, which is one of the more valued players in the league today.
Von Miller, Super Bowl 50 MVP and one of the NFL’s best pass rushers, said a couple of weeks before the draft that Garrett should have been the top pick.
“He should be the No. 1 pick,” Miller said. “He is going to be the No. 1 pick.”
Miller — like many of us — saw it coming.
He’s a freak athlete
Once Garrett stepped foot in Indianapolis at the combine, he cemented his status as a can’t-miss prospect. He ran a 4.64 40-yard dash (which he improved on at Texas A&M’s pro day), and was faster than all the top quarterbacks in the draft, including Deshaun Watson.
His 33 reps on the bench press and 128-inch broad jump are indicators of why he’s able to make plays like this one against UCLA look so easy:
Garrett has big-play ability as well. During his career as an Aggie, Garrett forced seven fumbles and had an interception.
At the NFL Combine, Garrett told reporters that if there was one quarterback he could sack, it would be Tom Brady. That freakish athleticism that Garrett possesses could certainly get him there.
They need a franchise-changing player
The Browns haven’t struck gold in a way that could help turn the franchise around. Their best draft pick since their return to Cleveland 18 years ago has been Joe Thomas back in 2007. He’s been a stalwart at left tackle, starting every game since he’s been drafted, but there have been some terrible picks since then.
In 2012, they missed on Trent Richardson and Brandon Weeden. Two years later, it was Johnny Manziel and Justin Gilbert. And those are just a few of their first-round busts from the past few years. The Browns have been drafting poorly longer than that, wasting high picks on players who quickly flamed out, like Tim Couch, Courtney Brown, and Brady Quinn.
Then last offseason, the Browns changed tactics. They hired Moneyball executive Paul DePodesta and started stockpiling draft picks, taking steps to fix a franchise that has been the laughingstock of the league for two decades now.
Despite the Browns’ previous first-round mistakes, Garrett seems like a bulletproof pick. He won’t help solve their quarterback situation, but he has the potential to become something every NFL team covets: an elite pass rusher. Garrett might be a safe choice, but he could also be that franchise-changing player they’ve been looking for since 1999.
Is there a downside with Garrett?
SB Nation’s Stephen White made the argument that Garrett is not worth the No. 1 overall pick. White questioned Garrett’s effort, saying that he doesn’t have a great motor. “His effort was so poor at times that it was hard to really get excited about some of the good things he did do,” according to White.
At the combine, Garrett told reporters, “Nobody’s 100 percent every play — eight, nine plays down a drive. Sometimes you do look back and say, ‘I could have gave more effort’ or ‘I loafed right there.’ But you work on those things.”
He also suffered from injuries during his junior season, some of which attributed to why he took plays off. "But if you look at the tape when I was healthy, I got off the ball every single time," Garrett told ESPN. "When I started recovering and I was doing well, I was getting after the ball, doing the best that I can, limping down the field or moving, trying to be a difference-maker.”
What should the Browns expect from Garrett in his first year?
Nobody is expecting Garrett to play just like Von Miller his rookie season — even though he himself believes he can break the rookie single-season sack record held by Jevon Kearse, who totaled 14.5 in 1999. That would have been second in the NFL in 2016.
Production like that would help fix one of the problems that the Browns defense had in 2016 with a lack of sacks. They were second-worst in the league at getting to the quarterback last season. Joey Bosa, the first defensive player drafted a year ago, made an immediate impact for the Chargers defense last season, and the Browns would benefit immensely from similar help.
Under new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, Garrett should fit in nicely. The Browns will be blitzing more under Williams’ command, and that plays to Garrett’s strengths. Matt Bowen, who was a safety under Williams in Washington, said in a piece for Bleacher Report in 2013, "If he could, Williams would blitz fans out of the stands. A great scheme. And one that is fun as hell to play."
It should be fun seeing what a player like Garrett can do in his system.
Does this mean Cleveland is getting a new taco place?
Garrett said in January that he would miss Fuego, which he proclaimed to be “the finest taco dispensary on the planet.” Now that he’s arrived, Cleveland might have to open up its own location.
“Wherever I end up next, I will do whatever I can to make sure that Fuego opens a franchise in that city,” Garrett said. “This is something that is very important to me.”
At the very least, now that Garrett is the top pick in the draft, he can enjoy those crawfish.