A series of doubts swept over Montez Sweat as the first round of the NFL Draft entered its later stages. Twenty-five picks had passed, and still Sweat had not heard his name called.
The Washington Redskins were one of many culprits for Sweat's fall. The organization was interested in taking the Mississippi State edge player at No. 15 -- head coach Jay Gruden admitted during the team's post-draft press conference later that night -- but instead it went with the talent and upside of Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins.
"It’s hard to pass up a quarterback," Gruden said.
Eleven picks later, however, the Redskins made it up to Sweat for passing over him, trading away their No. 46 selection and second-round pick in 2020 to the Indianapolis Colts to acquire another first-round prospect.
At No. 26, Sweat proved to be an easy choice.
"I was just wondering what's going on, and then the Redskins called me and they changed my whole persona, everything, the way I was feeling," Sweat said via conference call shortly after his selection. "Now they definitely have a winner in me."
Gruden called Sweat a "perfect fit" for a defense that lost outside linebacker Preston Smith -- who ironically went to the same high school and college as Sweat -- to the Green Bay Packers in free agency.
Sweat stands at 6-foot-6, weights about 260 pounds and ran a 4.41-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine -- measurables Gruden said are "second to none" when it comes to playing as an edge defender. In terms of production, he earned first-team All-America honors at Mississippi State last season, and he was even more dominant at the Senior Bowl, easily beating defensive linemen in 1-on-1 drills.
Sweat will now have a chance to compete with Ryan Anderson, a second-round pick in 2017, for the starting job alongside Pro Bowler Ryan Kerrigan. Sweat also becomes the fourth former first-rounder along the defensive front seven -- joining Kerrigan (2011) as well as defensive linemen Jonathan Allen (2017) and Daron Payne (2018).
"We talked about taking Sweat at 15, and to get him in the first round we obviously had to give up a little bit" Gruden said. "But we thought it was a no-brainer."
The major concern surrounding Sweat throughout the draft process was that he reportedly had a pre-existing heart condition, which doctors discovered at the NFL Combine in February. However, Sweat reportedly met with doctors that said he was misdiagnosed; news Sweat confirmed while speaking to the media Thursday night. Gruden also addressed the topic at his post-draft press conference.
"We think he is good," Gruden said. "You know obviously there were some concerns, but Dr. [Anthony] Casolaro, [Head Athletic Trainer] Larry Hess and we have done our due diligence on this, and we feel very strongly that he is a strong, healthy young man that is 6-foot-6 … with a large wing span and runs a 4.41, so we feel good about his health."
Sweat feels good, too, and is "just ready to play football," especially after slipping towards the end of the first round.
"I'm more motivated than ever," Sweat said. "I've always played with a chip on my shoulder, and I guess it's safe to say it’s probably the biggest chip on my shoulder that it's ever been."