Winner of the Main Event: Undecided
Before I break down the game at Tuscaloosa Saturday for Myles Garrett and Tim Williams, let’s first recap where the 2 pass rushers were coming into the game for some perspective.
Myles Garrett came into the season as a consensus top 5 prospect and has only strengthened that grip at the top of the class so far this season. Most writers and scouts, including myself, currently have Myles as the number 1 overall prospect. Few, very few, recent college pass rushers have had the blend of speed, power, and moves that Garrett displays. Garrett is also strong in the run game either chasing down plays or stacking blockers when the run is directed towards him. His coaches praise his attitude and work ethic. Myles is a dominant college player and has a very high ceiling to continue to improve. The only reason not to expect to hear Garrett’s name called first this spring is the likelihood that the teams picking early will be QB starved franchises. The pass rushing pool is very deep this year so don’t be surprised to see the top pick or 2 go QB and those teams look to take a pass rusher at the top of the second round.
A lot of people in the business expected Tim Williams to enter the 2016 draft last year. He was projected, at the time, to be drafted somewhere between 25 and 50 had he opted to go pro. Williams came back in hopes to watch his draft stock rise even higher. Tim had a large impact on Alabama’s national championship winning defense last year as a situational pass rusher. This was the year he was going to prove to everyone that he can be a 3 down player and ascend to the top 10 of the draft. This season hasn’t gone quite to the script unfortunately. It started with an off-season arrest which was very strongly condoned by head coach Nick Saban. Maturity, while it might not have been a concern last year, is going to be analyzed very thoroughly this year. Williams has continued to dominate as a pass rusher this season but hasn’t been as full-time in Alabama’s defense as we were all expecting. To be fair to Williams it is not easy to dominate as a pass-rusher in back to back years and there could be a strong argument made that he would play more on a less complete and deep defense than Alabama’s.
It was very apparent that something was off with Myles Garrett Saturday. He has been recovering from a bad ankle and might be fighting to get back into football shape. He spent a lot more time on the Aggie’s bench than usual. While his stat-line was hardly pedestrian, 7 tackles (3.5 for loss), you could just see the burst and pop that Myles normally plays with wasn’t completely there. He did have one first quarter play that won’t be found on the stat card that was very impressive. Garrett snuffed out a designed screen pass to the back by jumping off his block and occupying the passing lane forcing Alabama QB Jalen Hurts to tuck the ball and run. His instincts in diagnosing plays continue to impress. Myles wasn’t overly impressive in the run game, often times being mauled by fellow first round Alabama talent LT Cam Robinson.
Tim Williams was exactly as advertised. There isn’t anyone in college football as capable as Williams in getting in the backfield and hurrying the QB. No one can get there as fast either. Tim Williams played like his hair was on fire like he always does. He was so explosive off the snap that the Texas A&M tackles were always in the backpedal instead of being able to aggressively get their hands on Williams and wall off their QB. Williams tallied 2 more sacks Saturday bringing his total to an impressive 6.5 for the season. Alabama also seemed to feature Williams on all three downs more often than usual Saturday although Tim was rarely a factor in coverage or in the run game. Tim Williams didn’t dismiss any character concerns Saturday. While he praised his teammates Ryan Anderson and Jonathan Allen he did so by putting Myles Garrett down on a sideline rant. I don’t expect it was at Saban’s request either.
Neither player did a lot to either help or hurt their draft stock on Saturday. It wouldn’t be fair to give Garrett a complete grade as it was fairly evident that he wasn’t playing at 100%. While Williams isn’t proving to the world that he can play on 3 downs at the NFL level a lot needs to be said for his ability to get after the QB consistently even when everyone knows he is coming. I may have been more willing to give Williams the nod in this matchup had he been able to win quietly and not call out his opponent.
While you are enjoying college football this weekend join NFL scouts by putting your grade on these marquee individual match-ups with draft implications. We will revisit the “Main Event” early next week to see who came out on top of their battle.
# 15 Myles Garrett, Texas A&M, Edge
# 56 Tim Williams, Alabama, Edge
# 26 Saquon Barkley, Penn St, RB
#5 Raekwon McMillan, Ohio State, LB