The New York Giants like long, explosive athletes rushing the passer for their defense.
While many other things have changed over the last year and a half, that much has not. And with the team all but hanging a “Help Wanted” sign outside of their defensive meeting room, it would be a surprise if they did not find at least one pass rusher in the upcoming draft. And considering that this is an incredibly deep and diverse draft for pass rushers, and defensive linemen in general, it would be a stunning development if the Giants came out of the draft without acquiring a pass rusher.
Mississippi State’s Montez Sweat checks almost all of the Giants’ boxes when it comes to selecting a pass rusher, with elite athleticism, prototypical size and length, and good college production to his name.
After dominating Senior Bowl practices -- which the Giants weight heavily -- and the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine (as did Saquon Barkley and Lorenzo Carter, as well as B.J. Hill, in his own way), Sweat might be a favorite for the Giants in the first round of this year’s draft. It would be a good idea to be familiar with him.
- Legitimately rare blend of height, weight, and speed.
- Tested out as a truly freakish athlete.
- Uses his length and burst well to beat blockers and keep them from locking in.
- Blends power and speed moves in his pass rush.
- Rangy and dogged in pursuit of plays.
- Sets a firm edge in the run game.
- Shows good discipline and patience as a rusher. Doesn’t run himself out of plays.
- Doesn’t have a great feel for clogging passing lanes.
- Diagnosed with an undisclosed heart condition.
- Almost always in a three-point stance.
- Was kicked out of Michigan State for a “violation of team rules”
What They’re Saying
“Some will see Sweat as a leggy edge prospect with average play strength and a lack of refinement in his pass rush. I see a talent, similar to Danielle Hunter out of LSU, with above-average length and a prospect who should continue to grow into his frame, allowing him to unleash his rush flashes into a consistent attack. His transition as an NFL rusher will take some time, but like Hunter, he should come out on the other side as a good, impact starter as an every-down edge defender.”
- Lace Zierlein (NFL.com - Scouting Report)
Does He Fit The Giants?
Montez Sweat is an almost prototypical EDGE prospect, with length, speed, power, agility, technique, and production. Sweat is probably the most freakish athlete in this draft, and might be the best athlete in the NFL when he is drafted, but his game is enhanced by his athleticism, not predicated on it.
He comes out as a solid technician who uses his tools well to create space from blockers and beat them, rather than just “Out Athlete-ing” them. His rushes are usually disciplined, keeping aware of play-fakes, and playing contain on his way to the quarterback. And getting to the quarterback was something he did often. Since arriving at Mississippi State, Sweat was consistently productive, getting 101 tackles, 30 tackles for a loss, and 22.5 sacks (divided almost evenly in his two seasons there).
As Stephen White concluded in his own (more... colorful) profile of Sweat, if you were to draw up a prototypical NFL edge defender, he would look an awful lot like Montez Sweat.
The biggest concern, at least for the public at large, with Sweat is a perceived inability to bend the edge as a pass rusher. And while his long legs and height do lend that some credence -- all athletes have to obey physics, regardless of how physically talented they are -- it has more to do with how Mississippi State used him. Sweat spent most of his snaps in college at the 4 or 5-technique positions, and only rarely at the wider 7 or 9-technique spots. While playing head-up on offensive tackles let Sweat use his length and strength to control blockers, it didn’t put him in great position to allow him to show off his bend around the edge.
But when he was lined up more widely, Sweat showed solid bend around the edge attacking the C-gap, such as in this sack against Auburn.
For the Giants in particular, Sweat is a bit of a projection because he played 97 percent of his snaps in a 3-point stance (per Sports Info Solutions), and was rarely rushing out of a two-point stance. But while the Giants are nominally a 3-4 defense and Sweat’s position in a base package would be outside linebacker, he would likely spend most of his time with his hand in the dirt as the Giants spent most of their time in four-man front nickel packages. Sweat doesn’t have any athletic limitations for playing from a two point stance -- his movement skills grade out as better than average for linebackers despite being a couple inches and 20 pounds bigger than most linebackers -- and it should just be a matter of coaching. Sweat isn’t comfortable dropping into coverage, but whichever team drafts him would be insane to have him do anything other than go downhill on just about every snap.
The only real concerns for Sweat come off the field. The first is the fact that he was kicked out of Michigan State for violating team rules after stealing a bicycle and allegedly being caught with marijuana (according to former teammate Craig Evans, who was dismissed at the same time for team violations). Sweat seems to have matured in the years since, and isn’t hiding anything about his past, but NFL teams will want to do their due diligence.
The larger concern is a heart condition which had the doctors at the NFL scouting combine take a thorough look. Sweat’s condition was, apparently known since college (though not by the public at large) and he was cleared to play in the SEC as well as to participate in the Senior Bowl and in the Combine. For his privacy, details have been kept out of the public eye, but teams will have to judge for themselves what the risk is, and whether it is palatable.
Without expert access to his medical records or private detectives to dig in to his character and past, we can only judge Sweat by what the player we see on the field.
Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reported shortly before the draft that Sweat saw a specialist and the specialist believes Sweat was misdiagnosed at the Combine.
From our NFL pre-draft coverage: #MSU pass-rusher Montez Sweat may have been misdiagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Two sources say the thickness of Sweat's heart wall is actually 1.5 cms, not nearly 2.0. I explain below why the risk could be much lower. pic.twitter.com/PUVsbO2tDw— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) April 25, 2019
And as a player on the field, Sweat profiles as a faster, more explosive, more agile, and more productive version of Jadeveon Clowney. That is a player in whom the Giants have to be interested.