When Texas A&M’s season was over, Phil Savage wasn’t convinced Aggies edge rusher Myles Garrett was the wisest choice for the Browns with the No. 1 pick.
More than two months later, Savage, executive director of the Senior Bowl and former Browns general manager, has jumped aboard the train thundering toward the seeming inevitability of Cleveland taking Garrett to open the NFL Draft on April 27.
The biggest reason for the change is the hire of defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and the anticipated scheme switch.
“Myles Garrett in a 4-3 is almost a slam dunk,” Savage said this week in a phone interview with The Chronicle-Telegram.
Savage, who is also the analyst on Alabama radio broadcasts, said the Browns would know exactly what they’re going to get with Crimson Tide defensive lineman Jonathan Allen — considered an underdog to be chosen at No. 1. But Garrett has more potential, if not a superior resume, and would step in as an end in the 4-3.
“He flashes amazing ability,” Savage said of Garrett. “You have to bet on his upside. His ceiling and room to grow is that much greater. He has a chance to get a lot better.
“You might see a different Myles Garrett in a couple years than the one you saw at A&M if everything works out accordingly. At the combine he was lights-out. All indicators are the ability was there. Will he be able to put it all together?”
Garrett (6-foot-4, 272 pounds) was slowed by an ankle injury last season and his production suffered. He finished with 8.5 sacks, with 4.5 coming against second-tier program Texas-San Antonio.
His quickness, strength, extreme athleticism and ability to dip his shoulder and turn the corner to get to the quarterback were obvious in his difference-making plays. But he struggled to consistently win against some of Texas A&M’s better opponents, didn’t give maximum effort at all times and seemed disinterested on plays away from him.
Garrett’s three-season totals were good — 31 sacks, 35 quarterback hits and 98 hurries, according to profootballfocus — but Savage told espncleveland.com in January he’d be concerned because Garrett didn’t dominate the SEC.
“He accumulated a number of his sacks against inferior opponents,” Savage told The Chronicle-Telegram. “Certain games he didn’t have much of an impact.”
Williams has referred to himself as a “motor coach” and reportedly is enamored with Garrett as he attempts to improve the Browns’ pass rush.
“It seems like it’s almost automatic,” Savage said of Garrett going No. 1. “I’m sure Gregg’s campaigning big. If he can make the kid into an elite player, it would be a feather in his cap.”
Defensive end Jadeveon Clowney was taken No. 1 overall by the Houston Texans in 2014. Savage had doubts about Clowney and thought the Texans should’ve gone with pass rusher Khalil Mack instead, but is secure with the notion of Garrett being the first to hug Commissioner Roger Goodell.
“With Garrett, he’s just a very limber, loose athlete. He’s so much more a natural fit as a D-end,” Savage said. “He’s a clean fit, height, weight, speed, athleticism, jumping ability, explosion. The question is, is he going to give it to you all day, every day and reach the potential he has?”
The scouting combine can be overrated, with times and measurements the important statistics rather than sacks and tackles. But Garrett used the platform to cement his position atop many draft boards as he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.64 seconds, posted a 41-inch vertical jump and bench pressed 225 pounds 33 times.
“The numbers were so strong,” Savage said. “Those numbers sort of verify those flashes (in games). I think it gives you more evidence or more collateral to put in front of the owner and say this is why we’re going to (draft him).”
Matt Miller of Bleacher Report is adamant that Garrett is the draft’s best player and wrote he’ll be a 10-sack guy every year beginning as a rookie. ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay warned the Browns not to overthink the decision and just take Garrett.
Could that be easier said than done for a front office dominated by Harvard graduates? Garrett hopes not, saying being the top pick would mean a lot to his family, friends and Texas A&M teammates.
Not to mention himself.
“I feel like I’m the best player in the draft,” he said at the combine. “It shows I’m top dog, at least from the beginning. Once I’m in the NFL I can’t just, you know, hang my hat on that. I have to keep on rising.”
Quarterback is the position most associated with the top pick and becoming the face of a draft. A defensive lineman must be special to garner that attention.
“You have to be a game-changer,” Garrett said. “You have to be able to turn the tide of a game at any given time. Somebody who, when it’s third-and-15 and maybe it’s the fourth quarter and we need a stop to get the ball back, they put you in and say you’re the guy. That’s how good you have to be.”
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