Summary: One of the hardest commodities to find for NFL defenses is interior pass-rushers. It is rare to find a lineman who can be around 300 or more pounds yet retain the speed to fire by guards and centers. The fastest way to put pressure on the quarterback is from the interior of the defensive line, and having a pass-rusher on the inside can cause havoc for offenses and blow up game plans.
With that being the case, Bennett is a prospect who is going to be in demand in the 2015 NFL Draft. Ohio State's defense had some ugly games in 2013, but Bennett was one of the bright spots. He totaled 42 tackles with 11.5 tackles for a loss, seven sacks and three forced fumbles for the year.
Bennett had a slow start to 2014 before getting read hot down the stretch. The senior had impressive games against Maryland, Penn State, Michigan State, Wisconsin and Alabama late in the season as he put a lot of heat on the quarterback. Bennett recorded 41 tackles, 14 tackles for a loss, seven sacks, three passes broken up and three forced fumbles in 2014. He came up big down the stretch in the Buckeyes' National Championship run.
It would help Bennett to add weight and get stronger in run defense. That would allow him to do a better job of holding his ground when runs come straight at him. There were times where physical teams were able to move him and run at him.
Another negative for Bennett is he doesn't fit a 3-4 defense. He isn't big enough to be heavy zero-technique in a 3-4 nose tackle and doesn't have the length to be a 3-4 defensive end. If a 3-4 team took Bennett, he would be a situational pass-rusher.
In the NFL, Bennett's best fit comes as a speedy three-technique defensive tackle. He is fast to line up on the guard's outside shoulder and fire into the gap between the guard and tackle. Bennett is quick and explosive off the ball with the hands to shed blocks. He is very fast off the snap, and closes on the quarterback in a hurry. Bennett can make impact plays in run defense by darting into the backfield and preventing plays from getting set up. He projects to being an impact pass-rusher, and I wouldn't be surprised if he approaches, or reaches, some double-digit sack seasons in his career.
Bennett looks like a late first-round or early second-round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft.
Player Comparison: Kawann Short. Over his first two seasons in the league, Short has been a quality interior pass-rusher for the Panthers. I believe that Bennett will be similar with an ability to immediately contribute to putting heat on the quarterback. Short is a little thicker than Bennett, but both players have the speed to be impact three-techniques who fire past guards to get to the quarterback. Short went in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft, and Bennett shouldn't go any lower than the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft.
NFL Matches: Dallas, Detroit, Oakland, New England, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati
Bennett would be a perfect as a speedy three-technique for Cowboys' defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli. They need a three-technique, and Bennett is tailor-made for that position in a Tampa 2.
After losing Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley in free agency, Detroit could use an interior pass-rusher. If the Lions want to add Bennett, they could maybe trade down and take him. He may not make it to their second-round pick, so they may need to move up in Round 2 to land him.
The Raiders need to upgrade their defensive line and could use more interior pass rush. The newly signed Dan Williams won't provide pass rush and neither will nose tackle Justin Ellis. Antonio Smith is aging as well. Bennett would be an appropriate value with Oakland's second-round pick of the 2015 NFL Draft.
In the AFC North, Pittsburgh would make sense if the Steelers are serious about mixing in some 4-3 sets and going back to Mike Tomlin's Tampa 2 roots. Bennett would fill the three-technique role for Pittsburgh. Cincinnati could use help at defensive tackle. Domata Peko had his play slip in 2014, and Geno Atkins wasn't quite the same coming off an ACL. Bennett would give help a pass rush that was a real weakness for the Bengals in 2014.
The Patriots lost Vince Wilfork in free agency and are thin in the middle of the defensive line. New England has drafted a variety of players, so Bennett could be one that the Patriots consider to help their pass rush.