The NFL Scouting Combine is more than just a glorified underwear Olympics – maybe, not much more, but more nonetheless. Beyond testing for how fast a player can run, how high he can jump, or how much he can lift, the medical testing that takes place during Combine week is a key component of the entire process – and something that could affect the Bears right away.
For example, consider the story of a guy like Montez Sweat – a top prospect, whose medicals were given a thorough look because of a pre-existing heart condition, according to NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport. Sources indicated to Rapoport that doctors cleared Sweat to participate in Combine events after a “thorough look” and deeming his condition to be “low-risk.” (Coming from a family that has a scary history with heart problems, I don’t deem any heart condition to be “low-risk” … but I’m not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV.)
Certain medical conditions have kept players from participating in Combine events over the years, so it’s good news that Sweat received a clean bill of health to strut his stuff in Indianapolis. But that’s not the only impact of this news.
Sweat might have been cleared to play, but heart issues are going to give any team pause when evaluating him, and it could even drop his draft stock in the eyes of some.
For his sake, you hope that it might not matter much – after all, Sweat bulldozed through the SEC and wrecked the combine. Indeed, the Mississippi State product ran the 40-yard dash in 4.41 seconds … as a defensive end who checked in at 6-foot-6 and 260 pounds. Those are wide receiver speeds, for crying out loud! But it might. His first-round lock status might not be such a “lock” anymore … which brings us to the Bears.
As I’m sure you know, the Bears don’t have a first-round pick this year (or next) because of the Khalil Mack trade (which is the best trade ever!). So if they want a shot at an elite talent, it might have to be an imperfect one – say, a guy with an injury or a health issue that pops up dropping his status from first-round lock to something less than that.
So for that reason, we’ll keep an eye on Sweat (and others who have medical flags pop up in the coming days and weeks), to see if the Bears might be in a position to take advantage of an otherwise bad situation.
It has happened before: Last year, Michigan defensive tackle Maurice Hurst was diagnosed with a heart condition at the Combine and dropped to the Raiders in the fifth round. There are differences between Sweat and Hurst (Hurst was sent home and not allowed to participate in Combine drills), but you get the idea (Eddie Jackson also comes to mind, but that’s sort of a different story). In the end, it’s still something to keep in mind as we turn our attention from free agency to the upcoming NFL Draft.