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2019 NFL Draft profile: Montez Sweat’s fantastic NFL Combine is only half the story

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Sweat is a great fit for the Lions, but there are serious concerns about his game.

NFL: Combine Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Now that the NFL Combine is in the books, we have a better feel for where prospects are from an athletic standpoint. Of course, having a good RAS score doesn’t make you a complete prospect, and it certainly doesn’t tell the full story, but it is an important piece of the puzzle.

The Combine is often used to “check boxes.” Scouts work tirelessly to watch film and normally already have a very good feel with how most players are going to test at the combine, and when they test about how you’d expect, then you check the box. It’s when players test much better or much worse than expected that you begin to raise questions and decide that it’s time to go back to the tape and see if you missed anything.

Mississippi State edge rusher, Montez Sweat, is a prime example of this. Not many expected Sweat to test as well as he did. After running a 4.41 40-yard dash and an unbelievably explosive 1.55 10-yard split, many were stunned. But that wasn’t even the most mind-boggling part of his performance. It was his 7.00 3-cone time that set the NFL Draft world on fire due to the popular opinion of Sweat having poor bend and flexibility.

Montez Sweat, EDGE, Mississippi State

6-foot-5, 260 pounds

2014 stats (with Michigan State): 1 game | 2 solo tackles | 4 total | 0.5 TFL | 1 sack
2017 stats (Mississippi State): 13 games | 21 solo tackles | 48 total | 15.5 TFL | 10.5 sacks
2018 stats: 13 games | 27 solo tackles | 53 total | 14.5 TFL | 12 sacks | 1 FF

Current draft projection: Top-15

Background

Team profile page

Sweat started his collegiate career with the Michigan State Spartans but was dismissed from the program in the spring of 2016 for violating team rules. Sweat has since stated that he’s matured since being kicked off of the Spartans football team and is being very open with NFL teams about his past.

In 2018, Sweat was named first-team All-American and first-team All-SEC by coaches and the AP.

Strengths

  • Ideal size and terrific length for the position.
  • Uses long arms to control the point of attack with timely disengaging in the run game. Very good run defender.
  • High motor and will not give up on the play after initially getting shut down. Tenacious mentality; plays through the whistle.
  • Heavy hands as a pass rusher and has a few moves he can beat you with (most notably push-pull or a rip combination). Has flashed some very good speed-to-power. Also has some rare flashes of bend around the corner if he times his jump well.
  • Though first step is very inconsistent for the most part, has shown great burst at times and testing confirms that he’s got it in him.
  • Long strides get him hip-to-hip with tackles on his second or third step with consistency.

Weaknesses

  • Elite athleticism often doesn’t show up on tape, especially when it comes to flexibility around the edge. Struggles to turn the corner upon any contact.
  • Very stiff in space and shouldn’t be asked to drop back into coverage or play without his hand in the dirt.
  • You don’t always see the same level of physicality that he shows in the run game when rushing the passer.
  • Mental processing is much worse rushing the passer and fails to take advantage of tackles over-committing to either side. Would like to see the light turn on in his head and see him develop some real counter moves.
  • Limited ceiling as a pass rusher due to how stiff he looks on tape. Contrary to his testing, could be a high floor, low ceiling type player.

Games watched: 2017 vs. Arkansas, 2017 vs. Ole Miss, 2018 vs. Ole Miss, 2018 vs. Auburn, 2018 vs. Kansas State

Overview and Projection

I’m a bit torn on the idea of Montez Sweat in a Lions uniform. On one hand, I believe he is a perfect fit for what the Lions are looking for in an edge defender, and I believe that the coaching staff and front office are going to have him fairly high on their board. Sweat has prototypical size for the position and is a fantastic run defender—an area that the coaching staff is dead set on strengthening.

On the other hand, I don’t believe that Sweat is the type of player that has the pass rushing potential that is worthy of a top-10 pick. To me, if you’re selecting a player in the top-10, you’re hoping that said player can develop into a star. I’m not going to completely rule that out for Sweat, but even on second watch, I struggle to see the elite athlete that we saw in Indy.

One thing is for certain, though. Patricia and his defenses have shown us that he doesn’t need an edge rusher with elite flexibility to get the job done. If you take a look at Trey Flowers, you’ll see a fairly average athlete with masterful technique and hand usage. Sweat is a very real option for the Lions in the first round and is one of the better fits for Patricia’s scheme that you will find.