Following Khafre Brown’s signing on Thursday night, it was expected to be a quiet day on the Tar Heel football front. However, the announcement of offensive tackle William Sweet’s departure for the NFL Draft quickly ended that quiet day. Now the Heels will have some work to do on the offensive line heading into the season.
Sweet has been a starter for the Heels at left tackle to begin each of the last two seasons. As a redshirt freshman, Sweet played in all thirteen games and actually started the Sun Bowl against Stanford. As a redshirt sophomore, Sweet started the first three games of the season and graded out well before being placed out for the season with injury.
That meant heading into his junior season there were still some questions, but the staff had a ton of confidence around him at the left tackle spot. That confidence was justified, as Sweet had a fantastic season as the Heels offensive tackle. In his 723 snaps this season, Sweet was graded out at an 80.4 overall by Pro Football Focus, with an 85.7 grade in pass protection and a 72.8 grade in run-blocking. Those numbers landed Sweet on the Pro Football Focus All-ACC first team along with fellow teammate Carl Tucker.
Pass protection will be Sweet’s calling card at the next level, as witnessed by his PFF grade. If you delve further the stats, you’ll see just how good Sweet was on Nathan Elliott’s strong side this season. Sweet saw 398 snaps in which he dropped by into pass protection, and in those 398 snaps, Sweet allowed just 11 total pressures (one sack, two quarterback hits and eight quarterbacks hurries). His footwork and athleticism will attract NFL teams, but questions with his run blocking ability will probably make him a Day 3 or Undrafted prospect.
Currently, Sweet is not ranked through any of the draft service sights, but most analysts believed that Sweet was not a threat to leave for the NFL early. Expect experts to re-evaluate their boards over the next few days and find Sweet’s name somewhere in the later rounds.
With Sweet declaring early, the Heels will now have a hole at left tackle. One would wonder if right tackle Charlie Heck won’t move over to left tackle to protect the blind side now that the starting quarterback will almost certainly be a righty. That means the right tackle spot will likely be the one up for grabs, which will mean that the transition won’t be quite as difficult. Redshirt freshman William Barnes is one of the early favorites to take over the role, especially if he can build on the upside he showed earlier this season. Redshirt sophomore Jordan Tucker started the final game of the season in place of an injured Sweet and held his own against one of the better defensive lines in the ACC. Other names to keep an eye on will be redshirt sophomore Marcus McKethan and true freshman Triston Miller.
Sweet’s declaration certainly came as a shock to most around the country, as he’ll join Anthony Ratliff-Williams as early declarees from the Heels. It would be a shock to see any other Tar Heels declare early, as Aaron Crawford and Antonio Williams have already said they will return and Myles Dorn seems to be giving off that same vibe. As Sweet showed us, though, you never know.