A lot of Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans and a big part of the NFL Draft watching population was introduced to Mississippi State edge rusher, Montez Sweat when he destroyed offensive tackle prospect Tytus Howard at the Senior Bowl.
Since then, we’ve all spent some time getting to know the player while teams are trying to figure out if the man is someone worth adding to their roster in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Here’s a look at Sweat’s career and what he might bring to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers should they take him in the league’s annual selection meeting.
Montez Sweat’s Career
A little more than three years ago, Sweat left the Michigan State Spartans football program. His departure followed a redshirt freshman year in 2014 and an indefinite suspension he received in September of 2015.
In the one game he played for MSU in 2015, he recorded four tackles, combined on one tackle for a loss and one sack. He was absent from the team’s second-game against Air Force, and suspended officially afterwards.
The most I could find on his suspension which lasted from September of 2015 until he left in April of 2016, was a report saying it stemmed from a violation of team rules. Which can mean anything. However, this March his former Michigan State teammate Craig Evans told the Detroit Free Press,
“Me and Tez, we fell short end on the weed situation.”
Sweat committed to Mississippi State in August of 2016 but spent the year playing football for Copiah-Lincoln Community College due to NCAA rules.
In his two seasons with the Bulldogs, he appeared in 13 games in each season and notched double-digit sacks in each. He also hit double-digit tackles for losses and finished with the most tackles for loss and sacks in the entire SEC in 2017 while being named to the first team All-SEC team in both 2017 and 18.
After everything, Sweat got back on track after being dismissed from Michigan State and even said about the experience,
“...I’ve grown from that so much and I just want to keep on building on that and show teams I’ve matured a lot.”
After two collegiate years clean, and a standout Senior Bowl performance, Sweat’s draft stock has soared. He’s being mocked in various spots in the first round this year, and has even been mocked as high as pick five to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Fast and strong, Sweat possess all of the requisite athletic skills to become a top-shelf edge rusher in the NFL.
He entered college as a tight end, so in reality he only has two solid years of play experience as an edge defender, meaning he should continue to get better as he gains knowledge of playing the position.
Perhaps his greatest strength however, could be the fact he’s been out of big-time football already.
As he talked about with NFL teams during the pre-draft process, his dismissal from Michigan State and year spent in community college taught him a lot, and he’s grown exponentially because of it.
There’s a lot to be said about a young man who’s felt what it’s like to lose everything and come back better for it.
His lack of trouble in the two years he spent in the SEC shows his growth as an individual as much as it does a player.
Judging by Sweat’s Senior Bowl, he should be fine facing NFL level competition since the guys in Mobile were all pro-caliber prospects. However, Tytus Howard is not a starting NFL lineman (yet), and more importantly hasn’t had more than one week of professional coaching.
When Sweat faces pro competition, there’s bound to be a learning curve, and given his lack of experience overall there is concern about how long it will take for him to catch up.
Often times on tape, Sweat will try to defeat his opponent with one strategy (usually a bull rush) and if it doesn’t work he kind of gets lost in the play.
When he wins, he wins big. But when he doesn’t, his contribution is debatable. How often will he win on his first move in the pros? And even more important, how long will it take to teach him how to set-up future moves and counter when they don’t work?
All of these are questions NFL coaches will have to feel confident in knowing the answer if they’re going to invest a first-round pick on him.
Why The Buccaneers Need Him
Passing the ball and stopping the pass are the two best ways to become successful in today’s NFL.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers can obviously pass the ball, and even without DeSean Jackson and Adam Humphries there shouldn’t be a big drop from 2018 to 2019 in this department.
Where the Bucs struggled last year was in stopping the pass. In fact, some day Chicago Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky might look back to his 2018 contest against Tampa Bay’s defense as the moment it all clicked for him on his way to a historic Hall of Fame career (Note to Reader: Calm Down, it was a joke).
Jason Licht, Todd Bowles and the plethora of coaches charged under them to re-shape this defense need to find an impact player in their pass rush. Jason Pierre-Paul is good, but he’s getting NFL old, and the team needs to give him a respectable partner who can also become the next great Bucs defender.
Will It Happen
At pick five? Doubtful. Even though he’s been mocked to Tampa Bay in some mocks, current mock drafts have Sweat’s target area somewhere between the tenth pick to the twentieth, and as high as eighth. Here’s a quick rundown:
If the Bucs get him, it’ll likely be a part of a trade back where the team gets Sweat and some extra picks in this super-stacked draft class.
General manager Jason Licht has stated the team could trade back depending on how the first four picks fall, the offers received and how far back the team would have to drop to execute a trade.
Armed with this knowledge, we can’t count out the possibility of Sweat playing professionally in Tampa Bay. The fit would be a good one playing for a coaching staff preaching maximizing strengths while developing weaknesses.
Playing with Pierre-Paul would give the young edge rusher a solid role model to develop behind and ensure Sweat the greatest possibilities of being successful.
We’re almost there, so we won’t have to wait long now to see what happens, who the Tampa Bay Buccaneers select, and how this 2019 roster will look moving towards the 2019 NFL Season!