One could argue that down the stretch of Ohio State’s 2014 national championship run, senior defensive tackle Michael Bennett was the team’s most important defensive player.
Bennett not only provided the leadership necessary for the Buckeyes to go on an unprecedented run to a title, but was also a terror on the field in the middle of their defense.
Bennett’s ability as a versatile interior lineman has NFL teams very excited about his future. He can play both positions and, because of that, Bennett’s name should be called at some point in the second or third round of this weekend’s NFL Draft.
Standing 6-foot-2 and 293 pounds, the big questions surrounding Bennett are his durability, his overall strength and somewhat of an inconsistent motor. He’s extremely quick and agile, though, has tremendous hands and has extremely sound technique. Bennett can instantly provide any team with depth on a defensive line and could be a starter as a rookie in the right situation.
“When I’m on the field, it’s a completely different person,” Bennett said in February at the NFL Combine. “Very aggressive, looking to cause some havoc. I really want the person I’m playing to know that I’m a better player than he is.”
Here are five teams that could be great fits for Bennett’s services based on team need and Bennett’s overall skillset.
Where they’re picking: Second round (54th overall); Third round (88th overall)
Breakdown: With the departures of Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley, the Lions have an immediate hole on the interior of their defensive line. Drafting Bennett in the second round makes a lot of sense and while Bennett may not be the type of dominant player Suh is, he’s certainly a capable replacement to pair alongside the newly-acquired Haloti Ngata on the interior of Detroit’s defensive line.
Where they’re picking: Second round (63rd overall); Third round (95th overall)
Breakdown: The Seahawks already have one Michael Bennett on their defensive line so it only seems fitting to add another. On a serious note, however, Ohio State’s Bennett could fill in nicely on the inside of a defensive line which lacks depth. The Seahawks don’t have a ton of holes on their team — hence the reason they’ve been to two-straight Super Bowls — but drafting Bennett late in the second round could fill one of their needs.
Where they’re picking: Second round (59th overall); Third round (92nd overall)
Breakdown: Teams are always in the market for an interior defensive lineman who can rush the passer and be stout against the run. Bennett is that type of player and would be a great fit in Denver at the end of the second round where he'd play on the same defense as former Ohio State teammate Bradley Roby.
San Diego Chargers
Where they’re picking: Second round (48th overall); Third round (83rd overall)
Breakdown: It seems like 48 may be a little early for Bennett — most mock drafts have him going outside of the top-50 selections — but that shouldn't discount the Chargers. San Diego is in need of interior linemen and should Bennett fall to the third round it'd be hard for the Chargers to pass on him with their 83rd overall selection despite their 3-4 defensive scheme.
Where they’re picking: Second round (53rd overall); Third round (85th overall)
Breakdown: The Bengals already have Geno Atkins and Domata Peko inside, but drafting Bennett would only add to their depth. Peko isn't getting any younger, either, and the thought of Bennett remaining close to home and playing in Cincinnati remains intriguing.
Honorable mention: San Francisco 49ers, Arizona Cardinals, Pittsburgh Steelers