2015 NFL Scouting Combine Watch List: Defensive Linemen (Part 2)

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Jan 1, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Blake Sims (6) is sacked by Ohio State Buckeyes defensive tackle Michael Bennett (53) in the 2015 Sugar Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Michael Bennett, Ohio State

Ohio State’s Michael Bennett is one player who may be around as deep as the top of the 3rd round, despite a solid resume playing for the National Champs. Bennett, at 6’2″ and 288, projects as a 3-tech tackle or maybe a 5-tech end at the next level, despite not being particularly tall at the position.

The sturdy Bennett has very good feet, which is his strength as he uses a quick first step and footwork to allow him to rip around blockers and make plays in the backfield or use his good speed to get down the line of scrimmage or hunt down quarterbacks.

Still, at 288 pounds, Bennett hasn’t shown a lot of pure strength at the position: if his quick moves are shut down by a blocker, he’s usually just stonewalled or even pushed around altogether. In order to demonstrate his value at the next level, Bennett will have to demonstrate he has the strength he needs to play against NFL-level opposition consistently. Here’s some key events for him:

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Broad Jump: The Broad Jump isn’t as sexy as the bench press, but it’s potentially the most useful measurable drill at the Combine. The Broad Jump will measure Bennett’s lower-body explosiveness, something he will need to use at the next level to drive opposing blockers and prevent himself from being driven off the ball. Many starting NFL tackles aren’t particularly impressive bench pressers, but those that aren’t are generally pretty good broad jumpers.

Bench Press: That being said, an NFL defensive tackle should still be able to get 225 pounds up more than a few times in the weightroom. While it’s not necessary to put up 30 reps or more, it’s rare to see a defensive tackle or 5-tech drafted if he can’t put the bar up at least 21 times, and even at that number, he’s hurting his value. Bennett should look to get that bar up 25 times and show the league that he’s ready to come in and push some people around.

Weigh-In: Bennett is listed at 6’2″ and 288 but many college players are listed at one height and weight and come to the Combine and shrink – or gain a lot of unhealthy bulk. A player like Bennett is going to be looked at for both: is he really the size Ohio State lists him?  Or is he shorter and/or lighter? Has he lost weight since the season? Gained it? Is that weight gain healthy muscle bulk or unhealthy fat bulk? How healthy does he look?

These will all be evaluated by NFL scouts, coaches and GM’s. He will also get his arms and hands measured, to determine how well he is able to generate leverage with his short, squatty frame. These types of numbers could either help or hurt his cause.

Next: Player to Watch: Arik Armstead