Where T’Vondre Sweat helps, and doesn’t help, the Tennessee Titans

The Tennessee Titans selected former Texas Longhorns defensive tackle T’Vondre Sweat with the No. 38 overall selection in the 2024 NFL Draft. The Titans entered Friday evening with glaring needs at multiple positions and just one selection at their disposal. Many hoped they’d trade back and accumulate the third-round pick they lost in last year’s Will Levis trade up. General manager Ran Carthon alleges he received eight or nine offers for the pick. Rejecting them all, Carthon and head coach Brian Callahan chose Sweat with conviction.

Sweat is a big-bodied interior tackle that’s a high-level run stopper first and foremost. He measured in at 6-foot-4 (and-a-half) and 366 pounds at the NFL Combine after declining an opportunity to weigh in at the Senior Bowl. Sweat possesses rare size and strength, even by NFL defensive linemen standards.

If you entered the 2024 NFL Draft wondering what the Carthon and Callahan regime likes, it’s BEEF. In picking Latham and Sweat, the Titans added approximately 708 pounds in trench play, according to their NFL Combine weights. I imagine that it contends for the heaviest players selected by one team with back-to-back picks in NFL draft history.

It’s not just the numbers on the scale that create pause. Dividing Latham’s and Sweat’s other measurements lead to 97 percentile hand size (both possess 11 inch mitts), 79.5 percentile wingspans, and 67 percentile arm length (brought down by Sweat’s 52 percentile mark). Of course that’s not an exact science due to different percentile benchmarks for different positions, but it goes without saying the Titans drafted two massive, hulking prospects.

The Titans entered the offseason needing a proper replacement for Teair Tart following his midseason departure. They signed a plethora of in-season castoffs such as Keondre Coburn and Quinton Bohanna in an effort to replace him, but neither player was a long-term solution. Carthon and Callahan hadn’t properly addressed the position in free agency either, taking a flier on Sebastian Joseph-Day, who is more versatile than just a nose. Sweat spent the majority of his snaps at Texas attacking the “B Gap,” which Inside The Pylon describes as “the space, or split, between the offensive guards and offensive tackles on either side of the offensive line.” Sweat totaled 941 snaps across the previous three seasons in the B Gap.

And Sweat will do some good things for Dennard Wilson’s defense. Playing him next to Jeffery Simmons could be a nightmare scenario for opposing offensive lines, who can’t possibly double team both of them. Sweat’s selfless abilities will free up his teammates to make backfield plays. That’s particularly notable for a weaker group of linebackers, especially Kenneth Murray Jr., a free-agent addition who’s at his most productive when kept clean. Offensive linemen will have difficulty climbing to Murray Jr. on the second level with Sweat clogging the middle.

Sweat and Simmons will also allow the Titans to defend the run from light boxes. That should empower Wilson to field more defensive backs in the league’s never-ending attempt to get smaller and faster to combat pass-happy offenses. Wilson will appreciate the versatility to defend the run from multiple personnel groupings.

Sweat was an elite run defender throughout the 2023 campaign. He was Pro Football Focus‘ No. 1 ranked run-stopping defensive tackle, earning an elite grade of 92.0. Sweat also placed No. 1 among all defensive tackles in PFF’s WAR (Wins Above Replacement) metric.

There’s little-to-no question how Sweat helps the Titans as a run defender. The real debate is over Sweat’s productivity as a pass rusher. The answer is open to interpretation. If you deal in exacts, Sweat recorded a less-than-impressive 5.0 sacks throughout five campaigns at Texas. The Huntsville, Texas native didn’t play significant snaps until 2022 and 2023, still totaling 2.0 sacks across that time frame, including zero in 2022, and a career-high 2.0 quarterback takedowns this past campaign.

The advanced metrics are kinder. Sweat recorded 31 pressures this past season according to PFF. His 15.3% pass-rush win rate placed fourth among all qualifying defensive tackle prospects, finishing behind just his first-round teammate Byron Murphy II (19.6%), Michael Hall Jr. (18%), and Johnny Newton (15.5%). Newton was drafted two picks before Sweat at No. 36, and Hall Jr. went to the Cleveland Browns later in the second round at 54. Sweat is the only prospect among them that produced a pass-rush win rate and run-stop win rate over 10% this season. His two-year pass-rush win rate clocks in at 11.6%, per Joe Goodberry.

Sweat’s productivity as a pass rusher arrived via pressures and pass-rush win-rate, metrics that aid his teammates, more than it has in direct sack numbers. I’m skeptical regarding whether a 350ish pound defensive tackle will ever be a legitimate three-down game-changer, and that’s the goal when drafting at No. 38. Carthon and Callahan are excited about Sweat’s potential as an interior rusher, per their comments.

“He’s growing as a pass rusher,” Callahan said. “You see his ability to push the pocket. To me, as an offensive coach, the guys I have the most issues with are the ones that can collapse the pocket from the interior. We can handle edge rushers. You can’t do much inside when you have two guys pushing the pocket. Jeffery [Simmons] is going to command double teams. When you get one-on-ones with a guy that size [Sweat], all he has to do is transition to a bull and push the pocket in a quarterback;s face. That’s hard to deal with,” Callahan concluded.

There are also off-field concerns present. Sweat was arrested and charged on suspicion of DWI mere weeks before the draft. Everyone’s favorite draft guide, “The Beast” by The Athletic’s Dane Brugler has excerpts of scouts calling Sweat a “party animal” and “class clown.” Pairing those things with a recent arrest creates cause for the concern. Sweat dropped to the 10th-ranked defensive tackle with a fourth-round grade on Brugler’s final rankings. Sweat had an in-person meeting with the Titans via a pre-draft “30” visit shortly following his arrest. The Titans obviously vetted the off-field incident and came away comfortable, according to Carthon.

Conditioning is a legitimate question as well. Sweat intends to play at 350-355 pounds, but allegedly reached 380-plus throughout the 2023 campaign. The Titans will monitor Sweat’s weight closely, particularly the shape he shows up to rookie minicamp in. How Sweat manages his lifestyle away from the facility will be crucial to determining his outcome.

I’m a little surprised the Titans didn’t feel like they could trade back, recoup an extra day-two selection and still land Sweat in the 45-55 range given the recent arrest. In fairness, there was a run on defensive tackles, with Sweat being the third drafted within the opening six selections. A fourth defensive tackle was drafted immediately after Sweat (Braden Fiske), and seven total defensive tackles were drafted during the second round.

In many ways, the Sweat pick is the boldest of the Carthon era thus far. If Sweat manages his weight and develops into the three-down impactful defender the Titans envision him being, it will be considered a quality selection that has a positive impact on every level of the defense. The other end of that spectrum includes conditioning issues that limit Sweat to a two-down run stopper, or worse, continued run-ins with the law.

Sweat possesses the potential required to develop into a big-time weapon for the Titans defense. His trajectory largely depends on his motivation and overall approach. Given recent incidents, Titans media will be monitoring Sweat’s progression closely.

Author: Justin MeloSenior Writer, Interviewer and Podcaster for Broadway Sports covering the Tennessee Titans and NFL draft. For more than five years, Justin Melo has professionally covered all things NFL draft and Titans for The Draft Network, SB Nation and USA Today. Best known for his Interview Series with NFL draft prospects, Justin has interviewed more than 500 NFL players. Co-host of the Music City Audible podcast alongside Justin Graver (@titansfilmroom).

Leave a Reply