Long before the season ended, the Chargers were being paired with Illinois defensive tackle Jer’Zhan Newton — arguably the top player at his position in this year’s class — in most mock drafts due to their lack of being able to stop the run and rush the passer from the interior. Now that the season is over, most analysts have the Chargers leaning towards the offensive side of the ball. If that’s the case, the Chargers may have to find help along the interior on the latter two days of the draft.
Enter Texas’ massive defensive tackle T’Vondre Sweat, a monolithic 6’4, 362-pound defender with enough athleticism to convince his coaching staff that he can catch a touchdown.
FAT GUY TOUCHDOWN— Tom Downey (@WhatGoingDowney) December 2, 2023
T'Vondre Sweat for Texas pic.twitter.com/eUpKdylEmp
Sweat was a late-bloomer by standout college football standards as he played in over 60 games but started less than two full seasons worth of contests (18) in his career. Still, Sweat put together such a strong senior season that draft analysts probably aren’t too worried about when he officially broke out.
Monolithic defensive tackles don’t often put up numbers in the stat sheet, but Sweat found a way to do it despite playing with another top defensive tackle prospect in teammate Byron Murphy. He ended the 2023 season with 45 total tackles, eight tackles for loss, a pair of sacks, four passes broken up at the line, and one blocked kick.
He was named a unanimous All-American, becoming the fifth Texas defensive tackle in school history to earn the honor, en route to helping his team earn a spot in the college football playoff. He also won this year’s Outland Trophy, given to the nation’s top lineman on either side of the ball.
- School: University of Texas
- Height: 6’4
- Weight: 362
- 2023 stats: 45 total tackles, eight tackles for loss, two sacks, four passes defended, one blocked field goal
- Career stats: 128 total tackles, 17.5 tackles for loss, five sacks, 14 passes defended, one forced fumble, two fumble recoveries, one blocked field goal
- Accolades: Unanimous All-American (2023), Outland Trophy Winner (2023), Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year (2023), First-Team All-Big 12 (2023), Honorable Mention All-Big 12 (2022)
Massive size and frame that you simply cannot teach. Despite being 6’4, he has an incredibly natural ability to drop his center of gravity to stonewall double teams at the line of scrimmage.
If you did not know how much Sweat weighed prior to watching him on film, you’d think he was a lighter prospect with the way he springs off the line. He also shows impressive twitch when swimming would-be blockers to get quick pressure on quarterbacks. If he’s tasked with one-gapping, Sweat can hit the accelerators and beat linemen to the spot which is a quick way to disrupt any action in the backfield.
Even with his size, Sweat could feasibly play all three positions in a base 3-4 front or either tackle spot in a base 4-3.
The 5 biggest plays of the season that landed Texas in the 2023 CFP (thread):— CJ Vogel (@CJVogel_OTF) December 13, 2023
1. No play was bigger than T’Vondre Sweat’s batted ball at the LOS against Kansas State in OT. This had TD written all over it before 93 stepped up.
Texas won the game two plays later. pic.twitter.com/x5G3dSmlLL
With notable strength and mass comes a habit of relying too much on those physical gifts over developing an actual plan as a pass rusher. Sweat’s biggest wins come from those moments where defenders likely underestimate his imposing abilities. When blockers do figure his game out, he needs to be able to work counters to their counters. If he can do this, I think his ceiling becomes even more sky-high.
More often than not, Sweat does show the lack of consistent burst off the line but that comes with the territory of playing north of 340 pounds. He’s not as athletically-gifted as first-round pick Jalen Carter was a year ago but he’s certainly got the potential to be a similar player with the right coach.
Round Prediction: Second-round pick
Sweat has a chance to push himself into the conversation as an early day two player in this year’s draft, but he’ll have to impress in his pre-draft workouts, mainly in the athletic testing at the NFL combine. Pro Football Focus has him as their 66th-ranked prospect in this class, which if you 1:1 those numbers, he’d be one of the first first picks off the board in round three. I think goes a bit higher due to how important interior pressure has become for modern NFL offenses.