Defensive end Montez Sweat is a top NFL draft prospect who might fall into the Buffalo Bills’ lap at No. 9 if some NFL team doctors have concerns about his health.
The Mississippi State product was determined to have a preexisting heart condition at the NFL scouting combine, according to multiple reports. It never impacted his participation in college — he never missed a game for the Bulldogs — and he was allowed to participate fully at the combine workouts in Indianapolis.
Nevertheless, Sweat was the subject of speculation on separate conference calls Thursday with draft analysts Daniel Jeremiah of the NFL Network and Gil Brandt and Mark Dominik of SiriusXM NFL Radio.
“An interesting thing on the medical side this year is going to be Sweat from Mississippi State,” said Brandt, the Hall-of-Fame former general manager of the Cowboys. “I know he has a little heart problem. I think some teams are concerned about it, and there’s others that aren’t.”
Virtually all mock drafts this spring have had Sweat being taken before the No. 9 pick. Detroit, at No. 8, is an especially popular destination for Sweat. Jeremiah had him falling to the New York Giants at No. 17 in his latest mock draft on Tuesday.
Sweat would make a lot of sense for the Bills. He is a true speed rusher off the edge. The Bills have only one of those, Jerry Hughes, who is entering the last year of his contract.
Sweat, who had 11.5 sacks last season, ran the 40-yard dash in 4.41 seconds at the Combine, a time that’s faster than most first-round receivers.
“I have not talked to anybody on Montez Sweat that has completely removed him from their board,” Jeremiah said. “I have talked to some teams who’ve said we have a little bit of a concern there.”
“The reason why I have him sliding down a little is not because of anything he’s done as a player or because you’re worried he’s failed a bunch of physicals,” Jeremiah said. “I have him sliding down a little because if you feel somebody else is in that same range or same ballpark, it can be kind of a tie-breaker. … I don’t anticipate you’re going to see a major fall with him.”
It’s hard to predict how pre-draft medical reports of teams will impact a players’ draft stock.
“More so than anything else, the medical and the character is what gets guys removed from your board,” said Dominik, the former Tampa Bay general manager.
Bills General Manager Brandon Beane on Monday said he would be meeting with the team's medical staff this week to go over all the players they have flagged as health risks.
“I’ve got a good feel for any of the guys who we would have trouble concerns with,” Beane said, referring to character issues. “The medical rechecks were just last week, and I just saw the doc in the cafeteria a little while ago. I told him not to bring his red pen. Be easy on us.”
Michigan defensive tackle Maurice Hurst was found to have a heart condition at the NFL Scouting Combine a year ago, but he was not allowed to participate in the Indianapolis workouts. He fell to the fifth round before being taken by Oakland. He had a strong rookie season for the Raiders.
“Somebody’s going to get a pretty good player,” Brandt said of Sweat, “just like Oakland did a year ago with Hurst.”
Jeremiah doesn’t think any first-day picks will be much affected by medical red flags.
“This year for the most part, the medical guys have been more fourth, fifth, sixth-round type players,” he said.
Potential first-round receiver Marquise Brown of Oklahoma had surgery in January to repair a Lisfranc fracture in his foot. Mississippi State defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons was rated as a top-10 prospect before suffering a torn knee ligament in February. Now he’s forecast to go in the second half of the first round.
“I can tell you that on Hollywood Brown, people are very confident,” Jeremiah said. “I talked to a general manager this morning who said they feel 100 percent confident he’ll return to what he was, and their doctors were fine with him. On Jeff Simmons, there’s confidence with him that he’s going to be back to full strength.”
Two high-profile running backs with injuries are likely to fall to the fourth or fifth rounds. Stanford’s Bryce Love, who produced 2,118 yards in 2017, tore knee ligaments on Dec. 1. Oklahoma’s Rodney Anderson tore knee ligaments on Sept. 3 and has suffered season-ending injuries three of the past four years.
“He’s a hard one to place on your board,” Dominik said of Love. “A lot of people are going to sit there and say I’d love to have him in the fifth. He’s 5-foot-9. He should drop a little. But people are going to keep going back to the junior stats, and I think he could sneak into the fourth round.”
“The real intriguing name which has some risk because of the number of injuries he’s had is Rodney Anderson,” Jeremiah said. “His upside is tremendous.”