The Jacksonville Jaguars had a couple of ways they could have gone with the third overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. General manager David Caldwell ultimately decided to take the talented edge rusher out of Florida, Dante Fowler Jr.
Among Caldwell’s other options at 3 was defensive tackle Leonard Williams, considered by many analysts to be the most talented player in the draft. He’s a versatile player who could have played end or tackle in Jacksonville’s defensive scheme. He seemed a bit redundant with the Jaguars already having Jared Odrick and Sen’Derrick Marks, but the Jaguars would have found a way to use him.
Things worked out for the Jaguars anyway, as they got maybe the biggest steal of the entire draft in the 6th round. Coming off an impressive career at Ohio State that included 111 tackles, 18 sacks and 31.5 tackles for loss, defensive tackle Michael Bennett was considered one the best interior defensive linemen in the draft. If he was selected in the 2nd or 3rd round, no one would have called that a reach. Somehow, he kept tumbling down each round until the Jaguars snatched him up in the 6th.
So why did Bennett fall so far? Jaguars’ Assistant Director of College Scouting Paul Roell believes it was mainly because Bennett has a specific scheme fit:
"The Jaguars see Bennett as a pure four-three three-technique defensive tackle, a position that depends largely upon quickness, penetrating and pressuring the quarterback. Roell said a 3-4-based team might not have had Bennett as high on its draft board.“Mike has what you look for in a three technique,” Roell said, citing quickness, intelligence, instincts, hands and quickness. “There are a lot of things you like in Mike as far as being a scheme fit in our defense.”"
Players do tend to fall in the draft because they aren’t scheme versatile, but to see someone like Bennett make it so far down the draft is somewhat stunning. While most sixth round picks are usually meant for depth and development, Bennett could have an instant impact on the Jaguars defensive line. Sen’Derrick Marks will likely be eased back into the rotation after tearing his ACL at the end of the season in 2014, which means the Jaguars will utilize a platoon of players at the three-technique spot. Bennett should have a very defined role, which means he could excel quickly.
For the third straight year, Caldwell might have found a big-time rookie contributor in the 6th round.
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