The Patriots edge rusher position is about in similar shape to the DT postion. The team has veterans and rotation players manning the position, but could use an infusion of young talent at the position. The Patriots attempted to add Derek Rivers to the position two years ago, but it hasn’t worked out so far due to an ACL injury suffered in Rivers’ rookie year. The team also has Keionta Davis, who saw less and less time on the field further down the season. The team could very well stick with their approach of picking up mid-round plug and play guys who had moderate ceilings as it’s worked in the past. However there is one prospect at the position that could be an intriguing add in the first round, it’s Montez Sweat from Mississippi State.
Arm: 35 3/4”
Hand: 10 1/2”
225-lb Bench Reps: 21
Broad Jump: 10’5”
5-10-5 Shuttle: 4.29
- Prototypical size and length for the position
- Elite SEC production
- Plug and play starter
- Adept hand fighter
- Bends around the edge well
- Contains mobile QBs in the pocket
- Athletic enough to drop into coverage when asked
- Reportedly has heart condition that’s given teams concerns
- Will need to add muscle weight to his frame to be sturdier vs. run
- Pad level and leverage at times will be an issue
Why the Patriots Will Draft Him
The team does not need a starter at the position, but given the depth at the position of moderate ceiling players the team should not be afraid to take Sweat if he falls out of the Top 20. Sweat has ideal measurables for an edge rusher and is athletic enough to drop into coverage. From a scheme standpoint, Sweat can fit both a stand-up rusher role in a 3-4 or a hand-in-the-dirt linemen in a 4-3. The Patriots typically like to have edge guys who fit both schemes to disguise their ability to rush the QB. There is some upside in the kicking game as Sweat would be on the FG block unit, an edge blocker on FG unit (like Chandler Jones), as well as kick/punt coverage. The 4-down upside is something the Patriots should consider when thinking about a trade up or picking even at 32.
Why the Patriots Will Not Draft Him
Sweat has hypertrophic cardiomyopathy: a heart condition in which the heart is abnormally thick. The problem is not believed to be as severe as the case with Maurice Hurst went from Top 15 prospect to a 5th round pick. Some teams have taken Sweat off their draft boards, and I have zero idea if the Patriots are one of those teams. Sweat was allowed to work out at the combine vs. Hurst, who was shut down. The problem has not affected him in his Mississippi State career. The only other issue is a checkered off-the-field list from his days at Michigan State that had him kicked out of the program. The Patriots took a chance on J.C. Jackson last season, so I don’t believe that will disqualify him as a fit with New England. The other major reason is he simply won’t be available. Teams sitting in the late teens and early 20s might be salivating to draft a player of his talent and possibly execute a trade to get a player with DPOY upside.
Who He Has to Beat Out: Derek Rivers, Keionta Davis
Rookie Year Projection
Sweat would start out 3rd in the rotation behind Michael Bennett and Deatrich Wise Jr. The Patriots would try to get him on the field on special teams and as a designated pass rusher on passing downs. Sweat’s pass rushing upside already makes him capable of being a quality contributor as a rookie on the defensive front with more upside to be had in future years. Sweat will require a bit of time in the weight room to bulk up from 260 to 270 to be sturdier on the edge vs. the run although he’s not a liability in that area either.
Long Term Projection
Sweat would be the highest upside pass rusher the Patriots added since drafting Chandler Jones 21st overall in 2012. By the end of Year 2, Sweat will become the top edge rusher in the defense and the key matchup weapon against the weakness of the opposing OL. I’m curious to see if he can rush inside, not necessarily with his hand in the dirt, similar to how the Patriots utilized Dont’a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy in the Super Bowl. Against run formations and personnel, Sweat would play exclusively on the edge.
Grade: 5/5 Starter
If Sweat makes it past the 20th pick, the Patriots have to consider a potential trade up to land a potential game-changing talent to the defense. Sweat is a player with Top 10 measurables and tape, and would otherwise be a Top 10 pick if not for the heart condition. While the Patriots are not starving for a starter, they could certainly upgrade a position that has a need 2 years down the road. The 5th year option would give the Patriots 5 years of cost control for a potential elite player.