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Washington Got a Steal in Montez Sweat

By Dave Holcomb
SouthernPigskin.com
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Time will tell whether Sweat is truly healthy enough to play football. Clearly, he played two years of SEC football at a very high level without any heart issues. If he can do the same for Washington, then Sweat will prove to be the biggest value pickup in the 2019 NFL Draft.

The NFL draft can be a funny thing. One minute, a certain prospect is a dynamite top 10 draft pick, and then the next, he’s sliding out of the top 20.

This happens to different players seemingly every year. In 2019, it occurred to Mississippi State defensive end Montez Sweat.

For months, Sweat was a consensus Top 10 pick -- one of the best pass rushers in the 2019 class. That really says something, considering the class was full of elite pass rushing prospects.

More than likely, he was going to be selected in the Top 5.

But about a week prior to the draft, Sweat began to fall on draft boards. On draft night, he nearly dropped out of the first round, but the Washington Redskins traded back into the round to choose him at No. 26 overall.

Washington picked Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins the same night. Signal callers always take most of the limelight, but if Sweat lives up to his original hype, he’ll prove to be the biggest steal of the 2019 NFL Draft.

It’s not hard to figure out why Sweat was widely considered a Top 10 selection at the beginning of the draft process in February. Standing at 6-foot-6 and 260 pounds, he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.41 seconds at the NFL combine. Sweat also possesses long arms, tremendous upper-body strength and a powerful first punch in his pass rushing technique.

He put those skills to good use at Mississippi State, posting 11.5 sacks and 14.0 tackles for loss as a senior. Sweat reached double digits in both categories -- 10.5 sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss -- as a junior as well.

Sweat looked just as impressive at the Senior Bowl too, as he turned in a performance during the game that vaulted him up many draft boards.

However, a diagnosis of a heart condition in March caused many teams to remove Sweat from their draft board entirely. According to NFL.com, combined tests discovered the defensive end suffers from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, which results in thicker than normal heart walls.

Combine doctors reportedly found nearly two centimeters of thickness in Sweat’s heart.

With this condition, Sweat could be a major risk to a football organization. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy causes shortness of breath, chest pain, and fainting during exercise. It also brings other major concerns such as the possibility of cardiac arrest.

When he began to slide on draft boards, most experts speculated it was because of his heart condition. But an anonymous NFL assistant coach told The Washington Post his team’s executives didn’t care about the heart condition, yet stayed away from Sweat because during his interview he “appeared unfocused.”

To complicate matters, Houston Texans doctor Dr. James Muntz reported that Sweat was misdiagnosed in March with the heart condition. According to NFL.com, he and other experts conclude that combine doctors “accidentally included capillary muscle in their testing” and that his “actual measurement is about 1.5 centimeters.”

This diagnosis means there’s no risk for Sweat to experience any of the conditions listed above.

Still, the correction -- assuming the second diagnosis is the correct one -- wasn’t enough for a lot of teams. And really, this showcased how deeply flawed the NFL draft process can be.

It’s one thing to stay away from a player because of a red flag, but teams dropped Sweat from their board because of the possibility of a red flag (again, assuming the second doctor got it right). That or teams used their own doctor’s judgements and still ruled Sweat at risk.

Time will tell whether Sweat is truly healthy enough to play football. Clearly, he played two years of SEC football at a very high level without any heart issues.

If he can do the same for Washington, then Sweat will prove to be the biggest value pickup in the 2019 NFL Draft.