One prospect who may interest the Denver Broncos on day two of the 2023 NFL Draft is Wisconsin defensive lineman, Keeanu Benton. He is a 6’4”, 309-pound defensive lineman who is one of the more powerful defensive linemen in the draft. The Athletic’s Dane Brugler has Benton ranked as his sixth-best defensive tackle in the draft and has him listed as his 56th-best prospect in the draft. Right now, Brugler has Benton projected to go in the second round of the 2023 NFL Draft.
Keeanu Benton played his entire four-year career at Wisconsin and was a key member of their defensive during that time. During his four-year career, he totaled 81 tackles, 19 tackles for a loss, 9 sacks, 4 pass deflections, and 2 forced fumbles. This past season, Benton totaled 36 tackles, 10 tackles for a loss, 4.5 sacks, and 2 pass deflections. It is not the sexiest stat line but a lot of the good things he did on the field do not show up in the stat line.
Keeanu Benton vs John Michael Schmitz.— The GOAT House (@GoatHouseNFL) April 16, 2023
Benton had himself a ball game vs Minnesota. Huge fan. pic.twitter.com/rGlAfJTltu
Weight: 309 pounds
40-time: 5.08 seconds
Arm Length: 33 7/8 inches
Hands: 9 3⁄4 inches
Vertical Jump: 29.5 seconds
Broad Jump: 9’3”
3-Cone Drill: 7.34 seconds
20-Yard Shuttle: 4.65 seconds
Bench Press: 25 reps
- Thick lower and upper half and looks like the biggest player on the field
- Freakish strength and is just an overall powerful player
- Has good size, length, and freakishly long arms
- Outstanding run defender
- Pushes the pocket consistently
- Anchors well and is rarely pushed backward or on the ground
- Is a former wrestler and uses that background to help with his technique and leverage in the trenches
- He is a fighter and violent in the trenches and is the type of player you want in there
- Has a strong initial punch and uses his hands to knock blockers off balance
- Has a good closing burst for a man of his size
- Has some flashes of pass-rush potential
- Offers scheme versatility
- Needs to continue to develop his pass-rush game
- Plays a little tall at times and will need to keep his pad level low consistently
- Not a lot of suddenness or explosion in his game
- Not an overly athletic player who sometimes appears to be lumbering on the field
Keeanu Benton RAS
Keeanu Benton is a DT prospect in the 2023 draft class. He scored a 8.86 RAS out of a possible 10.00. This ranked 181 out of 1581 DT from 1987 to 2023. https://t.co/RvKBRtwCVl #RAS pic.twitter.com/ysfMw07h92— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) April 5, 2023
What other analysts are saying about Wisconsin defensive lineman Keeanu Benton
A four-year starter at Wisconsin, Benton was the starting nose tackle in former defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard’s 3-4 base scheme, also seeing snaps over the B-gap. He averaged 36 snaps per game over his final two seasons in Madison and posted a personal-best 10 tackles for loss as a senior captain in 2022. With his push-the-pocket power, Benton consistently resets the line of scrimmage when his pad level is right and plays with the movement skills to get up and down the line of scrimmage. His mediocre college production is a product of his role for the Badgers and his pass rush potential boosts his draft grade (flashed promising rush potential during Senior Bowl practices). Benton needs to play with consistent leverage and become a more consistent finisher for the NFL game, but his stout power base and above-average athleticism at his size are outstanding foundation traits. He has the talent to play all over the defensive line as a pro. - The Athletic’s Dane Brugler
Benton is a powerful interior defensive lineman with size and persistence. However, he needs to play with consistent explosiveness early in the rep for decisive wins at the point of attack at the pro level. Block engagements become drawn-out brawls at times, but he does a nice job of defeating block sustains and often finds himself near the play. He lacks a wide base and sturdy anchor, so he’ll need to improve his pad level to prevent double teams from moving him around too easily. He’s solid and has flashed starting potential, but he needs to become a more consistently impactful force in the middle to make noise as an NFL starter. - NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein
Does Wisconsin defensive lineman Keeanu Benton make sense for the Broncos?
I think he does, if available.
The Broncos need to replace the role DeShawn Williams had on their defensive front. He was a run-stopping specialist who typically came off the field on third down. That is the role, at least early on, I could see Benton occupying if drafted.
I am a big fan of his game. He is a big and strong defender who is violent in the trenches and will clog up running lanes. He also offers some pass-rush potential that needs to be developed, but there is a lot to like about Benton.
Now, will he be available when the Broncos select in the third round? That depends on how the league believes he will develop as a passer. Run-first defenders often drop in the draft because of their lack of pass-rush ability, so we shall see how he fairs. The Broncos did draft two defensive linemen last year and could lean on their development instead of spending a day two pick on a lineman, but we shall see.
While I like Benton and his game, I probably would prefer them to target a player with more pass-rush potential right now. You need to get after the passer to win in the AFC, but with that said, I would not be upset with Benton.