There’s a lot to be expected from a player drafted first overall. When the Cleveland Browns made edge defender Myles Garrett the opening selection of the 2017 NFL Draft, he was pinned with reversing the course for a team that had won a single game the prior season. Garrett has done that and much more, as the Browns appear more threatening by the week with rookies and second-year players at the forefront of their success.
The Browns are 4-6-1, which still puts them in the basement of the AFC North but also signifies an unprecedented turnaround, as they’ve already accumulated the same number of wins they had in the past three seasons combined. Garrett has been the leader on defense — his 50 pressures are fourth among edge defenders and his 11 sacks are tied for second.
How valuable has Garrett’s pressure been? For starters, he has over a third of his team’s combined pressures. But as a defensive unit, the Browns are allowing the second-lowest passer rating when they generate that pressure — including allowing just one touchdown and snagging eight interceptions on those plays. Against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, the Browns tasked linebacker Joe Schobert with rushing quarterback Andy Dalton on a play early in the second quarter. Schobert generated the pressure necessary to force a Damarious Randall interception — and that turnover was followed by a touchdown drive to put the Browns up 28 points.
Garrett played in 11 games last year, and so now that the Browns are through 11 games in 2018, it’s the perfect time to see how he stacks up with his rookie self. He’s already played more than 200 snaps than he did a year ago, and he’s shored up his run-game effectiveness. A season ago, Garrett netted just a 2.9 run-stop percentage compared to his mark of 5.1 percent this year.
For teams around the league, particularly those in the AFC North who are firsthand witnesses to the up-and-coming Browns, Garrett’s potential and the young players around him are even scarier than his current elite numbers. Against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 10, Garrett was held without a pressure for the first time in his career. And yet, the Browns handled the high-powered offense with relative ease, as 2017 draft pick Larry Ogunjobi and 2016 draft pick Emmanuel Ogbah stepped up to disrupt quarterback Matt Ryan in a 28-16 win.
Left tackles such as the Oakland Raiders’ Kolton Miller and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Donovan Smith, who rank 63rd and 71st in pass-blocking, respectively, were no match for Garrett. But he was otherwise held relatively quiet by the likes of the Baltimore Ravens’ Ronnie Stanley and the Falcons’ Jake Matthews, who have pass-blocking grades of 84.5 and 86.6, which are both top-10 among tackles.
The Browns owned the youngest team on average at the start of the season, and Garrett is apart of that group that continues to learn and grow as they match up with established veterans. So while Garrett continues to beat down on inexperienced and outmatched players, he has a ton of room to grow as he blossoms into one of the best pass-rushers in the NFL.
Against the Bengals on Sunday, Garrett blazed his way past the 22nd-ranked pass-blocking unit for 12 pressures. The only other players to match that feat this season are Aaron Donald (no surprise there) and Jerry Hughes. His success against lesser-talented players is well-documented, and his success in general in his second season may even be unprecedented for a first overall pick — after all, he is on pace for 16 sacks by the end of the regular season, and the Browns have had only two other defenders with more than 10 in a regular season since 2006. The Browns’ future is bright, and Myles Garrett is even brighter.