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2018 NFL Draft: Josh Sweat is a talent the Steelers must consider

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The Steelers could have a need at OLB with Bud Dupree potentially not getting the 5th year option. Does a future need like that allow Josh Sweat to be on the table for the 28th pick? How did Sweat have a disappointing college career statistically?

Alabama v Florida State Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

So, the Steelers two biggest needs are safety and off-ball linebacker, correct?

I don’t know, one could make the argument another EDGE rusher might be the biggest need. This argument hinges on the fact the Steelers are waiting to the very last minute to either agree or disagree to the 5th year option on Bud Dupree’s rookie contract. And depending on how he plays the year out, the Steelers could have to look at potential EDGE rushers yet again.

Getting pressure with 4 is something the Steelers have been preaching under Keith Butler, and while they’ve been great with their blitz packages, as well as getting pressure from their interior defensive line, the Steelers still haven’t been consistent enough getting pressure with just four rushers. Watching the divisional round loss to the Jaguars was absolutely awful due to the amount of times fans saw Blake Bortles stand in the pocket with absolutely no one near him.

While Dupree isn’t bad vs. the run, he can be pushed as a pass rusher, and while I’m not giving up on Dupree, a little competition might bring out the best in him

Enter Florida State linebacker Josh Sweat:

Big time recruit meets adversity

Josh Sweat was being hyped as the best recruit in the country. It was easy to see why with his combination of explosion, length and size. He almost never came off the field, often playing special teams as a punter, playing his traditional defensive end position and even as a tight end on offense. That ability to play all three of those positions is what I assume led to him getting his nickname the “Avatar,” like the master of the 4 elements.

Unfortunately, before his college career could ever start, his entire playing career was at stake. After suffering a left knee injury, which included a torn ACL and a dislocation, the damage was so bad there was worry he may have suffered severe damage to his arteries.

The worry was that if it was severe enough, Sweat would have had to get his left leg amputated. As we know now, this ended up not being the case, and Sweat was able to resume his playing career and got to play for FSU for 3 years. He wound up dealing with a few difficulties throughout his college career that included a slight meniscus tear his Sophomore year, which caused him to miss a few games.

The good news is that despite the concerns about his knee, according to Tony Pauline of Draft analyst, he passed every examation at the combine and was tagged with a “middle of the road grade,” which means he doesn’t have any red flags regarding his injury history. To top it off, he also blew the roof off with how he tested, showing that he’s not lacking any explosion from pre-to-post injury.

To understand the prospect Josh Sweat is though, we will be looking at 3 different points in his career that include his high school recruiting days, his FSU film and the FSU pro day. We’ll start from his FSU days that really showcase his floor and the flashes of his potential ceiling.

FSU Film breakdown:

Florida State employed Sweat all over the line, even having him as a 3 tech over the guard with him using his length to overwhelm guards.

At the point of attack you can see Sweat just jolt the guard immediately and bench press him back off the line of scrimmage.

There was a problem though I had with how FSU deployed him at times. Probably the most peculiar thing on his film is when he was lined up as a 5 or a 4 technique across the tackle, usually that means he would be 2 gaping in a traditional 3-4 (I’m not sure if he is).

Considering Sweat weighs around 250-pounds, I thought he did an admirable job with what was being asked of him.

This is quite impressive seeing Sweat be able to drive back Alabama’s best offensive lineman in left tackle Jonah Williams right into the RB, Bo Scarborough, this is also a very consistent trend on film.

Sweat was a bit slow off the snap in those two plays and while there’s a real instance of him being inconsistent with his get off, I’m almost positive that this particular play was a tackle read.

One of the biggest takeaways you have after the combine is to see if you missed something on film. So, you sit down and see if the prospect’s athletic testing translates to the film. He flashes that 1.55 10-yard split and 39.5 inch vertical explosion at times on film.

I have noticed when FSU had Sweat as a wide 9 on obvious passing downs he was able to get a much more explosive jump off the snap and tended to have a lot more wins. Which is what should happen when you test as explosive as Sweat did at the combine.

What about how he tested in the 3 cone drill? While the 3 cone drill isn’t always correlative with the ability to bend, it’s usually accurate about 75 to 85-perecent of the time. He didn’t participate in the 3 cone drill at the combine, he did at his pro day. While we don’t have an official number right now, 3 scouts had him timed under 7 seconds, according to John Owning of NDT Scouting (Be sure to check out their site, they have great content during draft season that is must read).

So does this match the film?

A 6.9 3 cone is usually indicative of a player who is usually not a dipper, but a guy who can flatten the edge and be able to tilt their body enough to corner around the edge. Usually though they’re not consistent and will need to soften edges just enough to be able to take the tightest track towards the QB.

(I apologize in advance for the potato like video quality)

This is absolutely beautiful by Sweat. Look at how tilted his body position is as he’s trying to work his way around this corner as he tries to soften the edge with a violent chop. A little later in the game he really got a chance to showcase some flexibility.

This is a really nice display of ankle bend as he flattens towards to the QB. Throughout his film, I don’t see much to suggest he’s got “elite” bend, but it’s very sufficient and definitely more than enough for his NFL career to prosper.

This play here vs. Louisville gets the point across he isn’t going to win that edge every single time, and will have to keep the tackle’s hands off him to really take advantage of his rush lanes.

Bend isn’t his signature trait, rather his heavy hands are the key signature of his game.

As I’ve been gaining more experience watching EDGE defenders and tracking the draft, I’ve come to conclusion that there are 3 big-time traits you look for, and you want to see at least 2 from a prospect.

Those traits are:

  • Bend
  • Speed to power
  • Heavy hands

Sweat checks off all 3, and his heavy hands are what makes him one of my favorite players in this class.

This is what I mean by softening the edge. If you look at his initial angle where his feet and hips were pointed, he was going to get rushed up the arc and away from the QB. As I watch this play I can almost feel the sheer force behind this violent club that allowed him a lane towards the QB.

You can see it on display in some of the earlier clips that are in this article as well. It’s one of the biggest reasons the club and chop are his go to moves, as is his one arm stab that effectively utilizes his 34 inch + arms to keep the tackle’s hands off of him.

As for his ability to counter, at first I thought his movements looked linear and clunky. I was discussing this with a friend of mine, Erik Turner who runs Cover 1. I started to worry when I saw a lack of consistent counter and not much stride manipulation. He lacked the movement patterns to be able to pull it off, but as I dug further into his film, I actually didn’t think that was the case.

While I have yet to see Sweat win in an area with a large amount of space on a counter, he does win well in condensed spaces and you can see him effectively swim over the tackle and beat him inside in condensed space.

It’s important that you have the movement skills to be able to sell and execute the inside counter move, or else tackles are just going to be selling out against your speed. As for his movement skills, I was really impressed with what I saw at his pro day and how quick his feet looked compared to his FSU film.

Look how smoothly he opens and turn his hips in this bag drill. Notice how his feet looked too and how effortless he can keep them moving, it doesn’t look heavy when his feet his the ground. You can also notice his bend at the end of this drill real time.

I wondered how much his brace could’ve held him back from truly being able to tap into his athletic ability. As I read up on him after his pro day, it turns out my suspicions may have more merit than I originally believed. According to Noles247, he ditched that brace as soon as his Junior season ended, and his personal trainer Yo Murphy wanted him to trust his knee again:

“With Josh I just felt he had to get confidence in his knee. He’s an incredible athlete. I thought maybe he depended on that knee brace a little bit too much, just watching him play. It kind of inhibited some of his athletic ability and God-given talent. I just asked him to trust us.”

Something which really stood out from that read was that he mentioned how Sweat’s first step was like that of a defensive back and that he had some slow times at first:

“His first step was as explosive as some of our defensive backs and our receivers. He was getting to the 10 in just as fast a split as some of those guys. We saw it for a long time. He wasn’t hitting it consistently because he didn’t have the stability and confidence in his knee.

This could also explain why his get off on his FSU film was inconsistent at times, despite him possessing all-world athletic ability. Sweat can feel that difference too and explained that he it took a lot more effort to bend his leg.

“I feel free now,”

I wanted to confirm that thought about his brace holding him back a bit more so I went back to his pre injury days where he was trying out at camps and competing in 1 on 1s. I think it’s safe to say that Josh Sweat has the movement abilities.

Conclusion

I believe it’s safe to say Josh Sweat’s best days are ahead of him if he continues to stay healthy. His combination of size, length and explosion are rare for a player who’s projected to go later in the 1st round. A lot of things had to happen for that to occur, and there’s a big reason to believe he can live up to the ability which resembles more of a Top 10 talent than a top 25.