The San Francisco 49ers will be taking a hard look to upgrade their pass rush in 2019, and Mississippi State EDGE Montez Sweat could be an NFL Draft prospect to watch.
After finishing with just 37 sacks in 2018, tied for 22nd in the league, the San Francisco 49ers will certainly be putting an outside pass-rusher high among their list of offseason needs heading into 2019.
And while it’s not hard to find links between the Niners and Kentucky EDGE/linebacker Josh Allen in the 2019 NFL Draft, another player head coach Kyle Shanahan and Co. should watch closely is Mississippi State edge rusher Montez Sweat.
Sweat has a bit of a checkered past — one which forced Sweat to leave Michigan State, where he initially committed, for Mississippi State in 2016. But that seemed to be the right move, even if it initially hindered his draft stock. Just take a look at the sack production he managed in two years within the SEC:
|*2014||Michigan State||Big Ten||FR||DE||1||2||2||4||0.5||1.0||0||0||0||0|
|*2015||Michigan State||Big Ten||FR||DE|
It looks as if that was the right move. And so far, Sweat’s efforts go well beyond the numbers.
At 6-foot-6 and 245 pounds, Sweat possesses a rare combination of both speed and strength. He’s particularly strong off the snap, showing a good deal of quickness and the proverbial “twitch” scouts love to see. He also has a strong repertoire of pass-rushing moves, which will help him avoid being labeled as a mere bull rusher.
Fortunately, he’s pretty good at that, too, as this 2019 Senior Bowl rep shows clearly.
Sweat is also more than capable against the run as well, which will be vital in the possibility of him emerging as an every-down end. The 49ers need a player of that caliber, especially considering they face NFC West running backs Todd Gurley, David Johnson and Chris Carson twice a year.
While Sweat has plenty of pass-rushing abilities and strengths, he could struggle against mobile quarterbacks and signal-callers capable of effectively navigating the pocket. Change-of-direction reaction abilities don’t play to his strengths, per se, which could get him into trouble against quarterbacks, like the Seattle Seahawks’ Russell Wilson.
Still, there’s a lot to like here.
Sweat is currently working with the South team leading up to the 2019 Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama. This is the unit Shanahan is coaching, fortunately, and San Francisco’s head coach will get a good up-front look at what Sweat has to offer.
It’s not likely Sweat cracks the top 10 of the 2019 NFL Draft order. And if the Niners were to select him at No. 2 overall, it would be a reach. Yet it’s not hard to find speculation the 49ers will trade down in Round 1, adding much-needed draft capital and possibly putting Sweat on top of the team’s radar.
And if Sweat winds up being the kind of player he’s flashing to be so far, it could easily be a wise investment for San Francisco.