This past Wednesday represented the start of this year’s NFL combine. Unfortunately Georgia Tech will only be represented by two players, which is a smaller number than most expected. Rod Sweeting and TJ Barnes are the two lucky Tech players to get the NFL combine invites this year, while Omoregie Uzzi and Orwin Smith were left out. Uzzi is believed to be a mid round pick and one of the top run blocking guards in the country, which makes his omission surprising. Nonetheless, let’s take a look at one of Tech’s combine performers this year, Rod Sweeting, and what he needs to do to improve his draft stock.
I will use this video as a reference, since it is one of the few available that has tape of Sweeting.
First, let’s take a look at some parts of Sweeting’s game that I like and are building blocks for him to make an effective transition to the NFL game. Sweeting has a big frame for a corner, 6′ and 187 lbs, that allows him to be physical against bigger receivers and not get pushed around. What helps even more is that he has a nasty streak and isn’t afraid to use his body to make big hits and knock receivers off of their routes. At 3:25 in the video, he completely upends the slot receiver and takes him out of the play. He shows NFL level strength, which should impress scouts early. Sweeting also shows that he is able to effectively play the ball in the air and make adjustments. He times his jumps and is able to use his hands to knock the ball away or come down with the interception.
Now let’s see what areas he needs to work on. Sweeting consistently whiffs on tackles by taking bad angles and trying to tackle high. Multiple times late in the Virginia Tech game he took poor angles and tried to arm tackle the receiver, giving up big plays in the process. This is a really bad weakness to have, but luckily for him he has some potential in this area. When Sweeting gets into a runner/receiver’s body, he naturally finishes the tackle and runs through the player. At 3:20 in the video, Sweeting runs through the player, which is exactly what defenders are taught to do. Going lower on tackles will help him tremendously since multiples times I saw receivers shake him off. A player with his type of physicality and strength should be able to do better than that.
His biggest weakness seems to be the inability to turn and lower his hips quickly when adjusting to a receivers route. At 4:25 in the video, the receiver blows by him because he is unable to quickly turn and explode to keep up. He got burned deep multiple times in this game, but this was the first time that Logan Thomas and his receiver were able to put a play together. Sweeting should be able to put some of these concerns to rest if he shows up focused and performs well at the combine.
After looking at Sweeting’s play, I expect him to perform well at the strength drills. He shouldn’t have a problem putting up an above average number of reps in the bench press and posting high broad and vertical jumps. In order to really help his draft stock though, he will have to impress scouts on the position and agility drills. The position drills will allow him to show fluid hip movement and explosion out of his breaks. The agility drills(3-cone drill and shuttle drills) will show how quickly he is able to change direction, which is extremely important for CBs.
Since everyone loves to talk about the 40, I will touch up on it. Although it would be nice for Sweeting to come out and post an impressive 40 time, it will be more important for him to post a fast 10 and 20 yard split. This is probably the stat that scouts and GMs care about the most. The prospects who can show explosion off the line will improve their draft stock and have successful combines.
Sweeting post game interview after winning the Sun Bowl MVP award.
So what does all of this mean for Rod Sweeting? Right now he is projected as a late round pick. If he can show at the combine that he has improved in some of the areas mentioned above, then he can move himself into the 4th or 5th round. Currently, I see a prospect who, with proper coaching, will be able to see playing time on an NFL team. He doesn’t show the potential to ever be a true starting CB, but he should develop into a rotational CB if he has the proper work ethic. He is an athletic player who has potential, and that by itself will probably get him drafted. It will be interesting to see how he does throughout the draft process because he is by far the most interesting Tech prospect to me this year.
Cornerbacks and Safeties arrive at the combine tomorrow. They will go through the pre workout activities(team interviews, aptitude tests, physicals, etc.) for the next three days and then have their workouts on Tuesday. All coverage is on NFL Network so record it if you won’t be home or tune your television to it in between classes.