The San Francisco 49ers‘ defensive line is getting a bit long in the tooth. What some people don’t realize is that they have very talented young players waiting in the wings. In the 2015 NFL draft, the 49ers could look to add more youth to their line by drafting Ohio State University nose tackle Michael Bennett.
Bennett is everything the 49ers look for in their players: good instincts, extremely versatile, and smart in how he plays. The Buckeyes had Bennett line up in almost every position on the defensive line, and he did well in all of them. They had him playing a 1-gap technique at times and a 2-gap technique at other times. He can play wherever any team needs him, whether it’s a 3-4 defensive front or a 4-3.
Bennett’s biggest asset is his explosiveness off the ball. There were many times when the opposing offensive line wanted to double-team him, but he was in the backfield before the second lineman could even touch him.
Bennett does have a few things he needs to work on though. Although he is extremely explosive and gets to the quarterback a lot, he needs to work on his pass rush moves. Current 49er defensive end Justin Smith has proven time and time again all you need is a bull rush to get to the quarterback, but Bennett is no Justin Smith at this point in his career. When he gets to the NFL, one pass rush move isn’t going to cut it.
When Bennett didn’t get double-teamed, there was almost no single lineman who seemed to slow him down. However, those instances were few and far between because he was double-teamed just about every single play. While he won’t be getting consistently double teamed when he gets to the NFL, he still needs to work on splitting them and knowing when to drop.
There were too many instances of him being driven out of the play on a double-team where if he had dropped and caused his two linemen to fall with him, the play would’ve been stopped or disrupted.
If the 49ers can somehow land Bennett next year, they could do so many different things with him. Smith might not be there, their other defensive end Ray McDonald might end up being a cap casualty after this season, and Glenn Dorsey is on the last year of his two-year deal, so the 49ers could have a brand new look on their whole defensive line.
Their new rotation of defensive linemen would be much younger and much more versatile. Tank Carradine, Quinton Dial, Ian Williams, Tony Jerod-Eddie, Lawrence Okoye, Demarcus Dobbs and Michael Bennett are all in the mix.
With all of those interchangeable pieces, there wouldn’t be much of a game plan offenses could come up with. With Bennett being so proficient as a 1-gap lineman, the 49ers would be able to put him at defensive end, along with Carradine at the other defensive end position, and run both ends in stunts along with the team’s two All-Pro outside linebackers. Putting that much of a strain on both sides of a team’s offensive line would wreak havoc.
If the 49ers would be able to draft a player like Bennett, it’d really just be adding to their embarrassment of riches. Defensive line isn’t their top priority, but the 49ers have shown that they don’t draft specifically for need. Bennett is a real option for San Francisco and someone who would be able to play right away.