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Montez Sweat film analysis: Powerful pass rusher has immense potential

Sweat was the star of the NFL Combine. Could he be a star on the NFL field too?

NCAA Football: Auburn at Mississippi State Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

The Buffalo Bills could use an upgraded pass rush, and if one player seems to fit their profile, it’s Mississippi State’s Montez Sweat. The Bills like their linemen with size, and the 6’6” 260 pound Sweat definitely checks that box. The senior enters the draft with 22 sacks and 29.5 tackles-for-loss over the past two seasons. Could he be Buffalo’s first pick? Time to examine the film.

Everything in Montez Sweat’s game is centered around torque and speed. He has a very powerful punch and a forceful upper body. Overall, I didn’t see a lot of impressive plays that involved changing direction. He was more of a missile, barreling at you with tons of kinetic energy. Sweat’s burst is tremendous. When unblocked, he can explode toward the ball carrier. His hand-fighting is solid, with a good long-arm—but the real value is in his upper body strength, which allows him to take on multiple linemen and still push them back.

Based on the games I viewed, Sweat’s pass-rushing repertoire needs a lot of work. He does have a rip move and the occasional swipe move, but I didn’t see much else. Sometimes he attempts inside counter moves, but they are slow and obvious in their setup. This gives tackles a formula to deal with Sweat—protect the edge and have a strong anchor, and you can win the rep.

Of course, “anchor” is the challenging part of the equation. Sweat is a load to handle because he combines his strength with a great pad level. The dude is 6’6” but he still gets his hands above his eyes, and he’ll bull an offensive tackle right back into the ball carrier. Sweat does an excellent job holding his ground in the run game and collapsing gaps. He has great pursuit speed and effort, too. Overall, Sweat will likely be very effective at winning one-on-ones against the run in the NFL.

Let’s go back to his pass rushing for a bit. His rip move is actually very nice and compact. Again, playing with a low pad level helps, and he’s clearly practiced the move. I wish he’d use it more. Overall, I got the sense that he doesn’t have a strong plan on each pass-rushing rep.

One issue I noted with Sweat is that he doesn’t quite have the “bend” to turn the corner around offensive tackles. Think of how Von Miller curves around the edge to reach the quarterback.

Ideally, once a pass rusher crosses the tackle’s face, he should be able to flatten out his rush with two to three steps and transition his momentum to the direction of the quarterback. Doing this requires your body to essentially move at a 45-degree angle, which is what the three-cone drill helps measure.

Sweat had a great three-cone drill, but on tape I kept seeing tackles ride him past the pocket, out of the way of the quarterback. He’s more linear than players like Nick Bosa and Brian Burns in this class.

So that’s where I’m at with Montez Sweat. The billing says elite athlete, outstanding size, very productive. The results seem more like a Jadeveon Clowney-lite: this is an explosive and powerful edge rusher. He can dominate against the run, using his power moves to close gaps or make tackles in the backfield. He’s developed a few strong moves, like a bull rush and a rip, but the overall pass-rushing repertoire isn’t as far along. He also seems to be more of a linear force than someone who can consistently turn the corner or counter to the inside. Clowney may have been the number-one overall pick, but I don’t think Sweat has his freakish strength.

Is this skill set worth a first-round pick? Probably. Would I be banging the table for the Bills to draft him? Probably not ahead of some of the other options I’ve viewed this year.