One week has passed since training camp kicked off in Las Vegas, and the excitement and optimism surrounding the 2023 edition of the Raiders have reached a fever pitch. The usual suspects have emerged as camp heroes up to this point– Davante Adams, Maxx Crosby, and Jimmy Garoppolo– but there has been a buzz coming from camp surrounding a particular rookie on the defensive side– Jakorian Bennett.
Bennett, the 104th overall selection in the fourth round of the 2023 NFL Draft, began his ascension at the Scouting Combine in February, displaying elite-level athleticism by clocking in a 40-yard sprint time of 4.30 seconds, with a 10-yard split time of 1.48 seconds. Despite the performance, the University of Maryland standout was still labeled as the second banana behind his college teammate playing across the field, 24th overall selection Deonte Banks. To solidify this point, according to NFL Next Gen Stats, Jakorian Bennett was given a grade of 5.83, which projects him as an average backup or special team player.
SCRATCHING AND CLAWING
It seems evident from Day-1 that Bennett has fueled himself in a positive manner with the words and criticism of naysayers. A zero-star prospect recruit out of Mcgill-Toolen High School in Mobile, Alabama, Bennett took his supreme athleticism to Hutchinson Community College to earn an opportunity that was not afforded to him in high school– quality playing time. At HCC, the former high school all-state track star earned himself an opportunity to earn his keep at the D-1 level, inking a spot on a Power Five program in Maryland– where he, once again, answered the call. His career at Maryland was highlighted with a 2021 and 2022 All-BIG 10 Honorable Mention nod, leading the team in pass breakups his senior year with 11, along with two interceptions. To top it off, his final game at Maryland resulted in him earning the Duke’s Mayo Bowl MVP award.
SETTING RAIDERS TWITTER ON FIRE
Fast forward to 2023, and the Jakorian Bennett hype train has taken off at full speed. There have been multiple reports that Bennett has performed well in drills, displaying aggression and the tangibles needed to succeed. Even before training camp, it was reported by Raiders Scout that Bennett would have a realistic chance to earn a starting spot on the Raiders defense. So far, so good. To be continued.
WHAT SHOULD WE EXPECT FROM JAKORIAN BENNETT?
Jakorian Bennett is a supreme athlete, with the prototypical NFL body, who directly translates his gritty, resilient, can-do attitude off the field to the playing field. Bennett, the former JUCO and University of Maryland standout, is an aggressive ball defender, showing fearlessness by consistently winning the battle vs. receivers by relentlessly crowding their catch space. Additionally, Bennett is excellent at defending the 50/50 ball.
Bennett, a former all-state track star in the state of Alabama, has elite-level speed, running a 4.30-second 40-yard sprint at the 2023 Scouting Combine. His speed is compounded with displaying solid body control, as he rarely bites on the double move vs. receivers. Additionally, Bennett shows hip flexibility as he transitions effortlessly from pivot to sprint. His gritty mentality is also translated when laying the hat on a runner, as he has shown to be a physical, eager hitter and tackler.
As Bennett displays elite speed, however, he tends to display sloppy footwork, particularly in his backpedal. Additionally, he has shown at times to be sluggish when closing in on the ball. Lastly, Bennett was on record to have a case of “the drops” when presented the opportunity to make an interception. However, considering the mentality Bennett brings to the game, there is no doubt in my mind that he will clean up these weaknesses. If he continues to show a degree of humility and an eagerness to learn and sharpen his skills, then we can expect him to be receptive to the criticism and mentorship of veterans Marcus Peters, Nate Hobbs– even Davante Adams– which will, in turn, sharpen the discrepancies. Bennett is in an ideal place to succeed with the Las Vegas Raiders.