Team: Jacksonville Jaguars
33 5/8-inch arm length
10 1/4-inch hands
Scout Pre-Draft Rankings
No. 5 defensive tackle in the draft
No. 35 overall prospect
Ohio State Career: A four-star recruit coming out of high school, Bennett already looked like a future star during his prep career that ended with an appearance in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. After arriving in Columbus, the Centerville, Ohio, native picked up right where he left off. He played in all 13 games his true freshman season and made 17 tackles. His five tackles for loss were third on the team and his total of 27 TFL yards was second-best.
As a sophomore under new head coach Urban Meyer, Bennett spent the first part of the season battling injuries and only appeared in eight games. He recorded 11 tackles and one tackle for loss in his limited playing time that season but also made the first start of his career in a 26-21 win against Michigan that capped off an undefeated season.
Bennett’s breakout campaign came as a junior when he started all 13 games. Over the course of the season, he made 42 tackles and racked up 11.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks, which ranked fourth in the Big Ten. He was named a second-team All-Big Ten performer by both the coaches and the media.
He entered his final season with a substantial amount of hype and then lived up to it, especially in the back half of the season as Ohio State made its run to the CFP national championship. He finished with 14 tackles for loss and seven sacks, and many of his best performances came in the biggest games. He had two TFL in a win at No. 8 Michigan State, forced two fumbles and recorded two sacks in the Big Ten title game against No. 11 Wisconsin and added another sack in the Sugar Bowl against No. 1 Alabama. He was named a first-team All-American by CBS Sports.
Scout Breakdown by Dave-Te’ Thomas: Bennett might lack the bulk you look for in a defensive tackle and will more likely move to defensive end in the pros, but much like the Falcons’ Jonathan Babineaux and the Packers’ Mike Daniels, he can fight and stack when he is able to gain good leverage. He does get a little high in his stance and this allows taller offensive linemen to get into his chest, but he works hard to compensate by keeping his hands active while generating strong upper body power.
Bennett uses his hands very well to disengage, and has very good lateral and up field quickness to get past the offensive tackles. He does a nice job of using his hands to keep separation and get off the line while controlling the blockers. His excellent upper body power is evident when he generates a hand punch that consistently rocks the offensive tackles back on their heels.
Even when he encounters an obvious weight disadvantage vs. the bigger offensive tackles when playing off the edge (will slide to weak-side end in a 3-4 scheme), he has the strength to hold his ground and when he keeps his pad level low, he is tough to move out. A lethargic blocker can also lose the battle with Bennett, thanks to his quickness in the gaps, in addition to having the speed to disrupt the plays in the backfield when in pursuit.
Unlike most slow-footed defensive tackles, Bennett generates a sudden burst to get to the quarterback after he clears his blocker. He has very good up-field speed and is effective on the bull rush due to good counter moves when pressuring. You can see on film that he is a savvy player with above average snap reaction (see 2015 National title game).
A smart team that plays Bennett at weak-side end in a 3-4 defensive alignment will also benefit by having him work in-line, especially on stunts and twists, where he can be quite effective because of his explosion and strength. He chases hard all the time, and makes a lot of plays out of sheer effort. He can look choppy when he gets too tall and tries to get through the interior trash, but has the straight line burst to close on the ball carrier or quarterback, and an explosive burst to flush out the passer.
Bennett On His Draft Expectations: “I’m going to expect to go seventh round and anything above that, I’m going to be thrilled with. I’m not going to expect to go first round and go second round and be disappointed. To accomplish my dream of going in the draft is going to be phenomenal. Whatever round I go in, doesn’t matter. Whatever team I go to, it’s going to be the same thing, work my ass off, get better every day and take a leadership position.”