2019 NFL Draft Scouting Report: Montez Sweat
By Charlie Campbell
Summary: It took some time, but Sweat finally broke out in 2018. He started out as a highly recruited player from Georgia who began his career at Michigan State. Sweat recorded four tackles and .5 sacks in games as a freshman for the Spartans. The next season, he was limited to two games and then ended up leaving the program. Sweat had some disciplinary problems at Michigan State prior to his departure.
Sweat landed at Co-Lin junior college and once again became a highly recruited player after starring as a sophomore. Texas A&M tried hard to land Sweat to be its replacement for Myles Garrett, and while LSU and Louisville also pursued him, Dan Mullen's Mississippi State staff landed Sweat. He then broke out for the Bulldogs as one of the best pass-rushers in the SEC. The junior recorded 10.5 sacks, 15.5 tackles for a loss and 48 tackles in 2017.
Sweat then totaled 53 tackles, 14 for a loss, 11.5 sacks and one forced fumble in 2018. To put a cap on his strong year, he was the best player at the 2019 Senior Bowl. He was superb in practice all week. Aside from performing well in the one-on-ones, Sweat was very good in the team scrimmage. He gave offensive tackles all they could handle with his speed, length and athleticism. Sweat is fast off the edge with a good first step, agility to bend, and length to fight off blocks. Sweat had three good practices to solidify his standing for the opening night of the 2019 NFL Draft and improve his potential for going higher.
In the passing-driven NFL, edge defenders who can get after the quarterback are always in demand. With his length, speed, athleticism, size and strength, Sweat has the potential to be an impactful edge defender with double-digit sack potential as a pro.
Sweat is a dangerous pass-rusher who shows good instincts and natural feel as an edge rusher. He has good play recognition and uses his instincts to get in the right position to affect the quarterback or disrupt plays. For a tall defender, Sweat has a nice ability to redirect, and he uses that to get after the quarterback or defend the perimeter.
As a pure pass-rusher, Sweat is quick off the edge with the speed to turn the corner and run around offensive tackles. One of his most impressive traits is his active hands to fight off blocks while using his feet at the same time. Sweat has some functional strength that he uses to get off blocks and shows impressive hand placement to get under the pads of blockers or rip them away from him. Sweat's excellent length helps him to do that and also makes it harder for offensive tackles to get into his chest. Once he gets free, Sweat has burst to close on the quarterback. He also gives a second effort and will continue to fight if he's initially blocked. For taking on NFL offensive tackles, Sweat could use more pass-rushing moves. He should add a spin and rip move to go with his speed or power rushes.
As a run defender, Sweat sets the edge better than one would expect for a 252-pound edge defender. He uses his functional strength to stand up offensive linemen and nice job of stringing out perimeter runs to the sideline. Still, there are times when Sweat's lack of weight can leave him knocked to the ground and pushed out of his gap. Thus, if he stays in a 4-3 defense in the NFL, he should add more weight to his frame to hold up as a base end or outside linebacker.
Sweat is well suited for outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. For a 4-3, he will need to add weight and could revolve between Sam - strong side - linebacker and defensive end.
Some teams have graded Sweat as a late first-round/early second-round pick, but it would be surprising if he is not selected in the first round. In the 2019 NFL Draft, Sweat should go in the middle to back portion of Round 1.
Player Comparison: Manny Lawson. Some have compared Sweat to Jason Taylor, which makes some sense because they are nearly identical in size. It isn't fair, however, to compare prospects to players in the Hall of Fame, as that can set unreasonable expectations. Another edge defender who has a similar skill set to Sweat was Lawson. Lawson had a solid career with the 49ers and Bills, but never was a prolific pass-rusher after being a first-round pick in the 2006 NFL Draft. I think Sweat will be a better version of Lawson (6-5, 240) and produce more in the sack department during his NFL career. Some team sources have compared Sweat to Lawson, and it makes sense as they are nearly the same size and possess similar skill sets.
NFL Matches: Green Bay, Washington, Carolina, Tennessee, Pittsburgh, Seattle, Houston, Oakland, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Los Angeles Rams, New England
After the top-10 picks, there are a lot of teams that could consider drafting Sweat. Green Bay has two first-round picks, with their first selection coming at 12th-overall. That might be the highest that Sweat could hope to go, and if he slides late, the Packers could consider him with the 30th-overall pick.
Sweat has other potential landing spots in the teens. The Redskins could lose Preston Smith in free agency, but even if he is re-signed, they could consider taking Sweat to pair with him. Just after Washington, Carolina could take Sweat with the 16th pick. The Panthers need to improve their pass rush and replace the retiring Julius Peppers.
Later, the Titans could use a young pass-rusher to pair with Harold Landry, so Sweat could be in play for them. Pittsburgh could use an edge rusher to go with T.J. Watt, so picks No. 19 and 20 are in play for Sweat.
Among the playoff teams, Sweat has a lot of potential landing spots. Seattle could use another edge rusher, and Sweat could be a scheme fit with the Seahawks. A few picks later, Sweat could be in play for Houston. The Texans have bigger needs along the offensive line and in the secondary, but they have to consider more pass-rush talent. Jadeveon Clowney may not be signed long term, while Whitney Mercilus wasn't the same last year. J.J. Watt is also aging, so the Texans could take a hard look at Sweat if they make some other signings in free agency for their bigger needs.
The Raiders could use a young edge rusher to go with Arden Key, so Sweat could interest then with their two picks in the 20s. The Colts also could use a young edge rusher to go across from Jabaal Sheard. Kansas City has Dee Ford entering free agency, but even if he comes back, Sweat could be a candidate as Justin Houston is aging and has had injuries.
Both Super Bowl teams could consider Sweat. The Rams' biggest need could be for an edge rusher given that they had to trade for Dante Fowler during the 2018 season. Fowler helped, but he's a free agent and may not be back. Even if he is re-signed, the Rams need more edge rushers to go with him.
The defending champions could also consider more pass-rush talent. Trey Flowers is entering free agency, and New England could stand to improve the edge rush even if Flowers is brought back.
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