NAME: Montez Sweat
SCHOOL: Mississippi State
POSITION: Edge Defender
JERSEY: No. 9
RECRUITMENT RATING: 3-star
WT: 241 lbs
First Step Explosiveness – First step explosiveness covers a great deal of distance, will bound out of stance and quickly set hip to hip with tackles with weight forward on his hands. Two point release is not nearly as dynamic and at times will pop straight up out of stance instead of driving forward.
Hand Technique – Hands work tirelessly in efforts to set on the chest of blockers before clubbing or ripping off of a block and into a pursuit role. Hand punch is timed well and recovery strength to pop the hands out and establish a crease enables late disengage vs. the run.
Pass Rush Counters – Best counters are push/pull combination, rip/club and power rushes. Linear explosiveness yields success why trying to collapse the pocket. Does not have the hip mobility to drop the inside shoulder and work hips across the frame of blockers, takes wide angled corners.
Flexibility – Reaches the apex of his rushes and either needs to be disengaged or will be ridden past the pocket. Has a great anchor at the line of scrimmage as a power player to squat and hold ground. Slipperiness in space is limited due to struggles getting small through gaps.
Run Defending – Terrific ability to lock horns with offensive tackles and length/wingspan leaves space open to duck back across the face of the block and challenge a ball carrier in outside-in leveraged reps or as a potential two-gap defender. Sets the edge effectively.
Competitive Toughness – Tenacious effort to sustain separation at the line of scrimmage. Second effort as a pass rusher leaves something to be desired, can get swallowed up despite length. Functional play strength is setting the line of scrimmage is amplified by long arms and extension.
Tackling – Wingspan is massive, will provide a lot of headaches off the edge with area of influence. Wrap up efforts are followed with a roll to ensure the legs of ball carriers are snared and avoid broken tackles. Can struggle to stay head up with ball carriers at the mesh point.
Lateral Mobility – Struggles in lateral redirection skills due to a tight base. Narrow hips don’t hinge or open easily and as a result burst in gaining width or mirroring a cut is typically delayed. Legs don’t extend from underneath of the hips with much success or range.
Stand Up Ability – Stand up success has been limited to role as a slash/twist/stunt defender to loop over a gap inside before turning into interior gaps and crashing into the face of the quarterback. Will not offer any value from a second level role or in zone coverage.
Football IQ – Technically refined defender with his hands. Ceiling as a pass rusher will be limited due to tightness but has illustrated pass rush counters that can effectively transition him to the NFL game and allow for pressures on a consistent basis.
PRO COMPARISON – Emmanuel Ogbah
BEST TRAIT – Length
WORST TRAIT – Flexibility
BEST FILM – Kansas State (2018)
WORST FILM – Alabama (2017)
RED FLAGS – None
Montez Sweat projects favorably as a base 4-3 defensive end at the NFL level. Sweat illustrates textbook extension in his attack of blocks and his separation skills enable to him win at the line of scrimmage with consistency. Sweat’s lack of mobility through the hips will restrict him as a space defender, he needs to play with his hand in the dirt at all times to make the most of his linear explosiveness and skills stacking blockers.
Burst/Arc Speed – First step varies from good to great. Almost never late off the ball, and will typically show excellent timing of the snap on long/late downs. Long strides devour the arc and can force his opponent into a hasty retreat, opening up space for inside counters. Explosiveness is more limited from a two-point stance (played almost entirely from 3-point stance in 2018).
Bend/Flexibility – More limited than you’d like to see in this area. Hip flexibility isn’t ideal, struggles to turn tight corners and bend through contact to the pocket. High-hipped defender who can only reduce his surface area so much when cornering, has a hard time winning the corner clean unless he gets an amazing jump off the ball. Often pushed up the arc when cornering, even by tackles in full-on recovery mode. Does have some good ankle flexibility to tilt by tackles when he gets the jump on them.
Rush Moves – Has strung together some awesome rush combinations during his time at Mississippi State, although they are fewer and further between than you’d like to see. Loves the long arm-snatch-rip combo. Has pulled off the push-pull from a long arm stab before to win the edge. Would like to see him convert speed-to-power more. Never hesitant to deploy his hands as a pass rusher, but can do a better job of breaking his opponent’s grip when he does get locked up.
Counters – With his first step and stride length, tackles overset consistently on him, opening up inside rush lanes. It’s imperative that Sweat begin to recognize opportunities to counter more readily into those lanes, rather than rushing up the arc, getting locked up and then trying to work back inside. He has to learn to set up those counters as go-to moves.
Run Defense – The only complaint anyone could have about his run defense is that he may not have the athleticism to play in space a lot and be successful. At the point of attack, Sweat fires off the ball into his opponent, setting a strong edge and consistently maximizing his length. Does a terrific job of stacking and shedding with full arm extension, hand placement and physicality are exactly what you want. Understands when to step down and take on a puller, but can also make plays when unblocked from the backside. Crazy how many plays he makes by setting the edge, then getting off a block to chase down a ball carrier running to a gap inside of him.
Tackling/Finishing – Unbelievable tackle radius, consistently gets runners and quarterbacks to the ground by going outside his frame. Long limbs are a huge asset to him in this area, but is more of an arm tackler than a big hitter. Sometimes drags and wrestles runners down rather than making an impact tackle. Could stand to target the ball a little more as a pass rusher.
Mental Processing/Vision – Mental processing in the run game is very good, finds the football and quickly reacts to the play to get in pursuit. Rarely fooled or caught out of position, very gap-sound defender. As a pass rusher, needs to identify overset and use inside moves more heavily, but does work back to the depth of the pocket fairly often once his edge rush is shut down.
Lateral Mobility – Struggles to stop-start and win the edge against offensive tackles. Tries to throw stutter steps into his rush repertoire, but with limited success. Enough range in his short area movements to chase down most quarterbacks who change direction on him, but will probably never be desirable in space.
Competitive Toughness – Physicality, toughness and effort will never be question marks. Absolute dog on the field and will run through the whistle on every snap. Chases down everything, even receiver screens to the far hash.
Athleticism/Size – Exceptional length with obvious added muscle to his frame. Where strength was a concern last year, now it is a big positive. Filled out his frame and should be tantalizing to teams looking at his physical profile, but athletically there are still limitations. I think the agility drills and 40 will be struggles for him.
BEST TRAIT – Run Defense
WORST TRAIT – Bend/Flexibility
RED FLAGS – None
A true 4-3 defensive end who operates best with his hand in the dirt, Sweat is a very tough competitor who has a good first step and the long strides to run the arc, but his athletic limitations could put a ceiling on his NFL impact. 22 sacks over the past two years is nothing to dismiss lightly, but a lot of Sweat’s production either came on coverage sacks or with the quarterback far too deep in the pocket.
My rule has always been that if you can’t beat an offensive tackle on their outside hip consistently, you’re probably going to have a limited impact as a pass rusher in the NFL. All is not lost however, as Sweat can still sell speed up the arc due to his first step and stride length. If he can force tackles into oversets and learn to work back inside more readily rather than as a last resort, he could soften up that edge when tackles adjust their sets accordingly.
Sweat’s path to success as an NFL edge rusher is going to be with snap timing, hand technique and pass rush variety. He’s improved in all of those ways over his career at Mississippi State, but he still isn’t quite where you’d like him to be heading into the NFL. I think he’s a good, solid player with starting ability, but I don’t know that annual double-digit sacks is in his NFL future like it was in college.