Photo By: Kelly Donoho/MSU Athletics
It’s a historic crop of Mississippi guys in the NFL Draft. Our NFL insider ‘Iso’ Joe Simeone takes on the challenge of predicting where the best players will land. Part Two: Mississippi State DE Montez Sweat
By Joe Simeone
Where Will They Land: Montez Sweat
Montez Sweat describes himself as fast, tenacious, aggressive and reactive. His mindset? “See ball, get ball.” Make no mistake about it, Sweat’s description is spot on. In the first installment of this WWTL series, we talked about D.K. Metcalf’s incredible day at the NFL Combine. Sweat was even more impressive. The 6’6” 260-pound defensive end posted a blistering 4.41 40-yard dash. It was the fastest time by a defensive lineman at the Combine since 2003 and the fastest in this year’s class.
The three keys for an edge rusher are speed, bend and pocket disruption. Sweat, who totaled 23.5 sacks in two seasons in Starkville, checks all of the boxes. While it is easy to gush about the many things he does well, his game is not without flaws. Sweat still needs to develop a more extensive pass rush arsenal and lean less on his athletic ability. It is also important to note that he has a preexisting heart condition,similar to what Michigan DT Maurice Hurst (Oakland Raiders) had last year. While the condition raises eyebrows, it is not likely to hurt his draft stock much. The Mississippi State star defensive end should find himself on a new team by the end of Day One.
"I'm a very fast, tenacious football player."@_sweat9 is ready to wreak havoc at the next level 👇
📺: Path to the Draft – First Draft pic.twitter.com/fqIPe2lYvH
— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) April 17, 2019
No. 6 & No.17 New York Giants
A confused team. The Football Giants claim to have a plan, but when you follow their roster moves it appears they are caught in limbo between rebuilding and contending. They moved on from their superstar wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., traded a few key pieces, and let star safety Landon Collins walk. All those things screamed rebuild, until the team doubled-down on their backing of veteran quarterback Eli Manning and gave a semi-large contract to aging veteran Golden Tate. Rebuild or compete, one thing every team needs to be able to do is put pressure on the opposing quarterback. The Giants finished last year second to last in the league in team sacks (30). Then this off-season they traded away last year’s sack leader Olivier Vernon to the Browns. So it’s a certainty that the Giants will look to revitalize their pass rush. With two first-round picks in the top 20, it is a good chance the Giants end up with Sweat — arguably the top pass rusher on the board. Pick No.6 is the earliest I see Sweat going. But if the Giants decide to go in another direction at No. 6, I think they would need to trade up above 17 if they wanted another shot at Sweat.
No. 8 Detroit Lions
Hedging your bets? After parting ways with 2013 fifth overall pick Ezekiel Ansah, it is time for the Lions to take a second look at their defensive front. While they ranked 11th last year in sacks, they did not have a single player with double-digit sack numbers. To address this the Lions went out and made a splash in free agency, snagging New England Patriots defensive end Trey Flowers for $90 million ($56 million guaranteed) in a massive deal. You may think this takes the Lions out of the conversation for Sweat, but not so fast. Just like the Denver Broncos last year, I believe the Lions are in the perfect position to double-down on the edge position by taking Sweat. If they do, they will have their own version of Bradley Chubb and Von Miller in Sweat and Flowers.
No. 13 Miami Dolphins
Options, options, options. The Dolphins decided to tear it all down and moved on from head coach Adam Gase and quarterback Ryan Tannehill. It’s pretty clear the Dolphins are signed up for the long- haul rebuild, so it puts the team in an interesting position this draft. The options for Miami are endless: they could trade up to make a move for quarterbacks Kyler Murray or Dwayne Haskins. They could also trade back to gain more assets for their rebuild, something similar to what the Cleveland Browns did. Or they could stay put and get a freak edge rusher that will change the look of their defense. With team sack leaders Cameron Wake (6.0) and Robert Quinn (6.5) gone, from a season ago, it is time for the Dolphins to go young at defensive end. If Sweat is on the board at No.13, it is going to be a tough decision for Miami brass. Here’s where it gets even more interesting: I think the two teams left on this list may offer Miami a convincing package in order to beat the other and move up and snag Sweat at 13.
No. 14 Atlanta Falcons
What just happened? Since blowing a 28-3 halftime lead in Super Bowl 51, it feels like the Falcons are still recovering from the hangover of a night gone wrong. 2018 saw Atlanta regress to a 7-9 record. While Matt Ryan played close to the form of his 2016 MVP year, the defense struggled all season. The Falcons were in the top 10 in points, and the bottom 10 in points against — a surefire way as any to go 7-9. For the Falcons, all of the focus should be on improving the defense. Second-year defensive end Takkarist McKinley did his best in leading the team with 7.0 sacks, but he needs a lot of help. At least Sweat wouldn’t have the pressure he might on other teams to be the star player; instead, he can come in and play his game in Atlanta. He will bring explosiveness and aggression sorely missing from this Falcons team still carrying a reputation of softness. But with McKinley and Grady Jarrett on the defensive line, Sweat could be the “edge” piece that turns the Falcons defense around.
No. 16 Carolina Panthers
A Super Bowl 50 suffocation. The Carolina Panthers learned the hard way in that 24-10 loss to the aforementioned Broncos group just what a dominating pass rush can do to an offense in a big game. After losing Julius Peppers to retirement, the Panthers need to up their pass rush in a division that boasts Ryan and Drew Brees still at the top of their games. Last season, the once-feared Panthers defense finished in the bottom five of the league with 35 team sacks. Honestly, it is ambitious to think that Sweat will still be available at pick No.16. I would not be surprised if the Panthers need to trade up to have a shot at Sweat. And with their division rival Falcons only a few picks ahead at No.14, it’s not crazy to think the Panthers will make a serious push for the Dolphins selection spot one ahead at No.13.
Oh Montez is *strong* strong 💪🏼 pic.twitter.com/fHywgGKCkC
— The Draft Network (@DraftNetworkLLC) January 22, 2019
When you’re 6’6” 260 pounds and can move like Montez Sweat, you’re in rare company. The star from Mississippi State is the third-ranked edge rusher on my draft board. While that means I see him as a back-end top 10 pick, it’s possible the heart condition and the unpredictability of draft day forces him to slide slightly. If he makes it to the teens, one team is going to get a Sweat-sized steal.
Catch the next installment of ‘Where Will They Land’ where I break down landing spots for Ole Miss receiver A.J. Brown.
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