What you need to know: Over his three seasons at Texas A&M, Garrett averaged 15.7 tackles for loss and 10.3 sacks per year. Both numbers were on track to be higher, but Garrett saw a dip in ’16 as he battled a high-ankle sprain—though he still finished the year with 15.0 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks (as well as a first-team All-America nod). Garrett’s 31.0 career sacks rank as the second-highest total among SEC players the past decade, behind only Tennessee sacks record holder Derek Barnett. Garrett, a first-team all-conference honoree in 2015 and a second-teamer in ’16, also notched 141 tackles and seven forced fumbles as an Aggie.
Only adding to the intrigue, his older brother, Sean Williams, was selected by the then-New Jersey Nets with the 17th-overall pick in the 2007 NBA draft.
Strengths: Garrett has been the consensus No. 1 prospect in this draft class for months, and with good reason. He possesses a rare (and ridiculous) combination of size, strength and athleticism, as he showed at the combine: 6' 4", 272 lbs., 4.64-second 40, 33 bench-press reps, 41" vertical, 128" broad jump. That 40-yard dash would have ranked top 10 among the combine’s tight ends and top five among the linebackers.
His numbers in 2016 did not measure up to expectation, but some of that had to do with the nagging ankle injury he suffered early in the year. It also could be chalked up to what we’ll call the “Jadeveon Clowney effect”—while Clowney got knocked for his lack of statistical production, teams altered their entire game plans to either avoid him or throw extra blockers his way. The same phenomenon occurred with Garrett.
The Texas A&M product is absolutely explosive off the snap. He can cover a ton of ground with his first couple steps, yet does so with the control to cut back toward a tackle’s inside shoulder when he has an opening. His power shows up in the form of a bull rush, and he also can spin out of that initial contact to leave a lineman grasping at air.
He was asked at the combine about comparisons between his game and Von Miller’s.
“You know, he probably has a little bit more skill than me,” Garrett said. “He’s been doing it for a little bit longer. But I feel like I’m a little bit bigger, little bit stronger and I’ll catch up in that regard to skill.”
Garrett is known for his pass rushing, but he offers plenty as an early-down defender. Again, the strength helps—he can stand up tackles and tight ends to set an edge. He also has the change-of-direction required to plant and cut after a back.
His NFL team may not want him dropping in coverage all that much. He has the footwork to do so on occasion, though, and probably could stick with a tight end for awhile.
Weaknesses: During his combine press conference, he admitted, to a certain extent, that he will take a play off here and there: “Nobody’s 100% 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.”
Certainly, there were some frustrating stretches with Garrett last season, even knowing he may not have been 100% and that teams were scheming to slow him. Of the 8.5 sacks he had during the 2016 campaign, 4.5 of them came against UTSA during a November non-conference game.
So, consistency will be an obvious focal point moving forward. Also on the list is maintaining discipline off the edge. As mentioned above, Garrett does has the ability to be a menace against the run, but it doesn’t necessarily show up for 60 minutes. He at times can be too eager to utilize that burst into the backfield, thus leaving him vulnerable to misdirection. And—perhaps in line with that need to keep the engine revved on every down—he has plays where he sort of goes through the motions with a blocker, sort of stalemating rather than trying to work free.
All that said, there is nothing that should prevent Garrett from being a high-impact pass rusher from the outset next season. How fixable he few flaws prove to be will determine whether he’s a dominant every-down defender or merely a terror for quarterbacks.
NFL player comp: Julius Peppers