After graduating from the University of North Carolina, offensive tackle William Barnes announced on his social media on Friday that he will be entering the 2019 NFL Draft despite having a year of eligibility remaining. Sweet is the second Tar Heel this year to declare early entry into the draft after receiver Anthony Ratliff-Williams.
In his return from an early injury his sophomore year, Sweet was a key member of an offensive line that struggled early before becoming a real bright spot on a usually dismal UNC offense. Pro Football Focus particularly loved him, giving him All-Conference honors after the season to go with the highest run blocking grade in the ACC among tackles. In a more tangible measure of his success, he finished the season having allowed just one sack, two hits, and 11 total pressures on his quarterback out of nearly 400 snaps, and helped clear the way for UNC’s top four running backs to average 5.6 yards per carry.
Sweet leaves UNC with a positive legacy off the field as well. Last November, he won the Carolina Challenge Pitch Party, an entrepreneurship competition hosted by Kenan-Flagler Business School, for his idea for a full-leg cold compression sleeve that he believes could greatly improve athletes’ rehabilitation from leg injuries. The linked article mentions that he was working towards a patent for his invention, but there has been no further news. Due to this and a lot of individual volunteer work, Sweet was awarded UNC’s inaugural Floyd McKissick Award, given to “an African-American male student who’s advocated on behalf of other students and the Carolina community.” He has graduated with a degree in communications.
It’s early yet for a lot of serious draft analysis to have happened. NFLDraftScout isn’t the most reputable of sites (Dane Brugler does great analysis but his website leaves a lot to be desired), especially this early, but for what it’s worth, their early ranking has Sweet ranked as the 20th-best offensive tackle in the draft. For reference, 21 players at the position were drafted in 2018. My personal sense is that he should be close to top-10 at the position and a late Day 2 pick (12 of those 21 were taken in the first 3 rounds), but we’ll know much more after the end of the NFL postseason, when draft coverage becomes the primary point of focus for outlets covering the NFL.
As far as UNC Football is concerned, Sweet is the only member of the 2018 offensive line expected to leave, leaving Charlie Heck, Billy Ross, Jay Jay McCargo, Nick Polino, and William Barnes as guys who started (Barnes and Ross split time at left guard). I’d expect that to be the starting lineup out of the gate next year; Barnes was a tackle in high school and was very good in pass protection in his time at guard. Expect incoming freshman Triston Miller to push for some time at tackle and redshirt freshman Ed Montilus to challenge for a spot at guard.
We at Tar Heel Blog wish Sweet the best of luck in the draft and with his career, football and beyond.