ATHENS — Mel Kiper Jr. expects Stetson Bennett to hear his name called during the NFL draft next month. Considering the peaks and valleys the Georgia quarterback has navigated the past few months, that in itself would be an impressive accomplishment, should it come to pass.
Bennett, 25, participated in the NFL scouting combine earlier this month and performed for dozens of scouts at UGA Pro Day on March 15. According to Kiper, those workouts and subsequent interviews apparently have increased Bennett’s worth in the eyes of NFL talent evaluators.
“Right now, I’d say Bennett’s anywhere between the sixth and eighth quarterbacks,” Kiper said in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution this week. “They all have the same grades, and he’s right in there. Hendon Hooker is the fifth-highest rated quarterback after the big four, but you could argue it could be Stetson Bennett.”
The “big four,” according to Kiper, is Alabama’s Bryce Young, Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud, Florida’s Anthony Richardson and Kentucky’s Will Levis. He puts Bennett in the mix just behind those players, along with Hooker, Stanford’s Tanner McKee and BYU’s Jalen Hall.
NFL Draft Buzz has Hooker fifth and Bennett seventh. Kiper said he’s still trying to decide.
“You certainly could argue that Stetson Bennett is the sixth-best quarterback in this draft, which puts him, I think, the fourth or fifth round, I’d say,” Kiper said. “Quarterbacks tend to drop a little bit if they’re not considered definite starters. He’s Day 3, but I’d say fourth to sixth round.”
Looking at the 2022 draft, nine quarterbacks were selected. There was indeed a big drop between the top four and all the rest. Matt Corral of Ole Miss was the fourth signal-caller selected and went in the third round with the 94th pick. The next QB taken (Western Kentucky’s Bailey Zappe) didn’t go for another 43 picks, late in the fourth round.
North Carolina’s Sam Howell was the sixth quarterback drafted, and he went in the fifth round. The other three quarterbacks weren’t picked until late in the seventh round.
Bennett insists he’s not sweating it. He has visited with several teams since his workout but is trying not to read too much into it.
“All it takes is one,” said Bennett, who measured at 5-foot-11 and 190 pounds for scouts. “You know, (teams are) playing a game, too, because they don’t want anybody to know who they want or anything like that. So, I try not to read into it because they might or might not be interested in me if they’ve talked to me a lot.”
Bennett’s father, Stetson Bennett III, has found himself marveling at the process as he follows it.
“I just know what I’ve known since he was a little boy, that he’s a good quarterback. Nobody believed it when he went to Georgia and a lot of folks still don’t believe it,” his father said. “There are more doubters than believers, but that goes for a lot of things in life. That’s fine. Somebody is going to get a very, very good football player.”
Bennett’s character came into question when he was arrested for public intoxication while in Texas training for the combine. But he seems to have allayed concerns in interviews with teams the past two months.
Meanwhile, Bennett has tested well. His hand measured 10 inches, and he threw the ball with a similar velocity to the quarterbacks rated ahead of him. His official 40-yard time of 4.67 ranked third among the top 10 players at his position.
On the field, Bennett had a 7-2 record head-to-head against the QBs he’s competing with for draft position. Alabama and Young, expected to be picked first or second, went 2-1 against Georgia with Bennett under center.
Bennett said he’s focused only on what he has to do to flourish at the next level.
“It’s better football,” he said of the NFL. “You’ve got to play clean. It’ll be a new playbook, and that’ll probably be the biggest thing right off the bat, new verbiage and all that. And then there’s just the physical part. It’s a man’s league. That means avoid tackles, throw on time, accuracy.”
Kiper said that what the Bulldogs did on the field with Bennett running the offense is the most important factor. His 4,125 yards passing last season eclipsed Aaron Murray for the most in the season among Bulldogs quarterbacks.
“That was an incredible accomplishment,” Kiper said.
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