Montez Sweat, Rashan Gary display jaw-dropping speed at combine

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News
Michigan's  Rashan Gary runs the 40-yard dash during the NFL scouting combine on Sunday.

Indianapolis — By proving he can fly, Mississippi State defensive end Montez Sweat could be sending his draft stock soaring. 

Sweat has done nothing but bolster his resume since playing his final game with the Bulldogs. First, he went to the Senior Bowl and dominated the week of practice in Mobile, Ala. He followed that up with a performance to remember at the combine, highlighted by a 4.41-second 40-yard dash, the fastest by a defensive lineman in combine history. 

The time is even more impressive considering his prototypical 6-foot-6, 260-pound build. 

And Sweat wasn't the only one impressing scouts with their speed. Florida State's Brian Burns, already known for his exceptional burst, clocked in at 4.53 seconds, the second-best time for the position group. 

Burns' time proved his athleticism isn't suffering because of his significant offseason weight gain. After playing his final college game at 228 pounds, he's packed on 21 to his 6-foot-5 frame this offseason. 

Burns, who possesses one of the college football's best spin moves, wants to prove he's more than just speed. By bulking up, he wants to establish he can rush with power and be effective stopping the run.

Interestingly enough, both Burns and Sweat named recent Hall of Fame inductee, Jason Taylor, as a player they enjoyed watching while growing up. 

Long and lean like Sweat, Taylor didn't run nearly as fast as this current crop of speed merchants, but he did tally 139.5 sacks during a 15-year career. 

Then there's Rashan Gary, who weighed in at 277 pounds this weekend. He crossed the finish line in 4.58 seconds, a tenth of a second faster than 285-pound Aaron Donald's jaw-dropping showing in 2014. 

Despite never reaching the heights expected coming to Michigan as the nation's top recruit, Gary's combination of size and speed give him one of the highest ceilings of any prospect.

Michigan teammate Chase Winovich also posted a strong 40, at 4.59 seconds. But he's 21 pounds lighter than Gary. In all, a dozen defensive lineman ran sub 4.7 in the 40, matching the total from last year. 

Given the league's shift to quicker and quicker passing attacks, speed off the edge continues to be coveted. Despite re-signing Romeo Okwara this weekend, the Detroit Lions, sitting with the No. 8 pick in April, should be in the market for another pass-rusher to address the team's shortcomings of pressuring the pocket a season ago. 

Gary, Burns and Sweat, all with different body types and skill set strengths could all be options at that spot, particularly if there's an early run on quarterbacks ahead of the Lions. 

Sweat, from Stone Mountain, Ga., played for Michigan State in 2014-15. He was dismissed from the team in 2015 and moved on to Copiah-Lincoln Community College in Mississippi. He then transferred to Mississippi State for his final two college seasons.