The NFL Draft is slated to take place in the city of brotherly love from April 27th-April 30th. As you get ready to watch who your team will select, CBS Local Sports will preview the top available prospects in the various different position groups.
Of all of the positions on the defensive side of the ball, it’s a player that occupies the edge rusher position that owns the title of highest paid defensive player in the history of the National Football League.
That, of course, would be Von Miller. The Denver Broncos’ $114.5 million man and Super Bowl 50 MVP has revolutionized the hybrid linebacker/defensive end/edge rusher position and has turned finding a player that can wreak havoc off the edge like Miller into a priority for basically every NFL team outside of Denver.
This year the No. 1 overall prospect could fill that void for the Cleveland Browns (should they be wise enough to select him) and there are four to five other DEs — some of the more standard 3-4/4-3 variety — worth taking a closer look at as we inch closer to draft day 2017.
**All stats from 2016 season
6’4”, 271 lbs
College Stats: 33 tackles (15 for a loss), 8.5 sacks, two forced fumbles
Combine Stats: 40 Time – 4.64, Bench Press – 33 Reps, Vertical – 41”, Broad Jump – 128”
The word “freak” gets tossed around a lot, but the target of the adjective rarely fits the bill as well as Myles Garrett does. The projected No. 1 overall pick is, physically, a freak. Garrett is a massive human being at 6’4”, 271 lbs but moves more like a running back as his 4.69 40-yard dash time indicates.
As a point of reference, Von Miller’s 40 time was significantly faster than Garrett’s at 4.49 seconds, but Garrett has nearly 25 pounds and an extra inch of height on Miller.
Yeah, the guy’s a specimen.
Garrett actually mirrors Julius Peppers more closerly than Von Miller in terms of measurables, and if Garrett’s career can come close to either of those two greats, whichever team drafts him will be set at the edge rusher position for the foreseeable future.
Garrett’s honed his skills at Texas A&M against the likes of SEC/NFL-bound tackles such as La’el Collins, Shon Coleman, Cam Robinson and Laremy Tunsil, proving he can compete with next level talent.
Besides rushing the passer, he’s also more than an adept tackler in the open field. An ankle injury suffered early in the year against Arkansas on a questionable low hit hampered his productivity, but Garrett still emerged from three years at A&M with 47 tackles for a loss, 31 sacks and seven forced fumbles.
Garrett is the consensus top overall pick, and god help the Cleveland Browns if they pass over this wreck ball of a human being.
You’ve been warned, Cleveland.
6’3”, 273 lbs
College Stats: 39 tackles (10.5 for loss), 3.5 sacks
Combine Stats: 40 Time – 4.69, Bench Press – 30 Reps, Vertical – 35”, Broad Jump 126”
In an alternate universe, where Myles Garrett doesn’t exist, Solomon Thomas is the consensus No. 1 overall pick and is far and away the best defensive end/edge rusher in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Alas, here we are, and there Garrett is atop the rankings of this year’s prospects. But, whichever team gets Thomas will be making out like bandits as a result, as this kid can flat out play as well.
While Thomas’s measurables aren’t as jaw-dropping like Garrett’s, they’re certainly pretty darn close.
Thomas has proven an ability — not unlike Garrett — to be dominant off the edge while also being strong enough to get into the trenches and handle linemen when forced to engage if his quickness and elusiveness don’t get the job done.
He’s an above-average tackler in the open field and scouts have raved about his work ethic and NFL-readiness, even as a 21 year old with just two years worth of experience at Stanford.
Interestingly, though he’s just 1.5 inches shorter than Garrett, some have raised concerns about him being a “tweener” — and not a natural fit at either the linebacker or defensive end position due to his size.
Ultimately, his intangibles, skill and strength should render that point moot, because wherever he lands (likely somewhere in the Top 5 of the first round) they’ll be wise to build a scheme around him, and not the other way around.
6’3”, 259 lbs
College Stats: 56 tackles (18 tackles for loss), 12 sacks
Combine Stats: 40 Time – Vertical – 31”, Broad – Jump 117”, 3-Cone Drill – 6.96 Seconds
What Derek Barnett may lack in measurables compared to Garrett and Thomas, he more than makes up for with intangibles and a relentless motor.
Not to say that Garrett and Thomas lack intangibles, but Barnett might be the most cerebral of the three, which is crucial considering he’s not as skilled as the other two.
Barnett tallied 33 sacks in his three years at Tennessee and he did it mostly out of the three-point stance rather than standing up, which is a bit of a red flag for teams looking for a pass rusher cut from the same cloth as a Von Miller or DeMarcus Ware.
All of the scouting reports on Barnett agree though, that his football IQ is among the best, which can’t be understated.
Where he fits into a team’s scheme is ultimately the issue. He’s not quick enough laterally to be a linebacker, even though his frame suggests that’s where he’d fit in, but he’s also not quick enough or strong enough to win one-on-one battles with NFL linemen on a regular basis.
Still he’s durable (never missed a start in college), finished his career with 52 tackles for a loss, and has shown a motor and mindset that will help him thrive at the NFL level. His ceiling is definitely not as high as the other two above him, but Barnett promises to be an effective player for the right team for years to come.
6’6”, 277 lbs
College Stats: 40 tackles (13 tackles for loss), 9.5 sacks
Combine Stats: 40 Time – 4.92, Bench Press – 25 Reps, Vertical – 33”, Broad Jump – 116”
Vidauntae “Taco” Charlton is a big man and his name carries a certain weight around with it as well. When you’re named Taco and you stand at 6′ 6” and weigh 277 lbs, that’ll happen.
Charlton came into his own in his senior season playing for the Michigan Wolverines, registering 9.5 sacks and 40 tackles while helping lead the Wolverines’ defense become arguably the stingiest unit in NCAA Div. I football.
While Charlton possesses raw power and height (hey, you can’t teach height), he only played 15 games in college, 13 of them coming in his senior year under new defensive coordinator Don Brown. Charlton unquestionably thrived in the Wolverines’ new 4-3-based system, but questions remain about his NFL readiness and his ability to fit into a 3-4 scheme where he wasn’t used at all until Brown took the reigns.
The positive for Charlton is that he hasn’t hit his full potential yet, which is scary for a guy with his resume from a season in one of college football’s premier conferences.
The negatives are that sometimes his height can be used against him as he fails to get low enough to avoid being stood up at the line and that he hasn’t polished his techniques to get past would-be blockers.
Whichever team grabs Charlton (likely mid-late first round) is drafting a project, so he could be a good fit for a team that doesn’t need a starting DE right away, but someone they can play in situational spots and groom as a long-term starter.
6’3” 253 lbs
College Stats: 61 tackles (12 tackles for loss), Nine sacks
Combine Stats: 40 Time – 4.82, Bench Press – 21 Reps, Vertical – 32”, Broad Jump – 109”
If there’s one thing we know about Charles Harris, it’s that he’ll thrive in a role where being face with two-gap looks and fighting in the trenches doesn’t come with the job description.
Early in 2016, operating in a new system under new defensive coordinator DeMontie Cross that left Harris trying to control gaps more than push through them, the Missouri product struggled greatly.
But, mired in a losing season, a shift was made back to the 2015 defensive philosophy that saw Harris emerge as one of the top talents at defensive end/edge rusher in the nation.
Harris registered eight sacks, with 5.5 of them coming in the month of November, demonstrating very clearly what his strengths and his weaknesses are for NFL scouts in the span of just one season.
Off the edge, Harris is dynamic; especially when coming out of the three-point stance. He’s not necessarily “fast,” but he’s quick, and uses that quickness and a robust set of moves to turn offensive tackles into turnstiles regularly.
Based on his performance towards the tail end of the year, when placed in the right system there’s no reason to think that he can’t continue that production at the NFL level after doing it in the SEC for the better part of the last two seasons.