If you’ve paid any attention to college football over the past few years, you know who Stetson Bennett is. If not, you still may have heard his name floating around–likely because of either his accomplishments at the college level or because of the fact that it’s become a popular meme to joke about how old he is (more on that later). But now that the Los Angeles Rams have drafted him, there are a few things you need to know.
Vote Below! Where Will Bennett’s Career Take Him?
Stetson Bennett‘s Long And Winding Road To College Football Prominence
Stetson Bennett is one of the better rags-to-riches stories we’ve seen in college football. He started his career as a walk-on and finished it by helping Georgia win back-to-back National Championships and breaking a 40-year championship drought in the process.
It was a long road to the top for Bennett, who often found himself buried in the depth chart and doubted time and time again. But through all that adversity, he was able to continually improve and fight his way back into starting position, and eventually, to the championship–twice.
Bennett walked on to Georgia as a freshman in 2017. He didn’t get any playing time, and after Justin Fields committed to Georgia, he transferred to Junior College in order to get more playing time. He started 12 games at Jones College in 2018 before returning to Georgia, this time on scholarship.
Bennett again backed up Jake Fromm in 2019, and again, started the 2020 season as the backup. He quickly took over the starting job once the season began and looked pretty solid before a rough SEC stretch against Alabama, Kentucky, and then Florida in which he struggled. He was ultimately benched for JT Daniels, a 5-star transfer who finished up the season showing an ability to stretch the field vertically in a way that Bennett had not.
Come 2021, Bennett again started the season as a backup. But again, he found his way back into starting position, this time as a result of Daniels getting injured. But this time, Kirby Smart would decide to stick with Bennett even after Daniels was healthy. He felt that Bennett’s mobility brought an added dimension to the offense that Daniels was lacking. Daniels remained on the team, however, for most of the season, and some thought it was a matter of time before Bennett lost his job again once the competition got tougher. But that wasn’t the case.
In the SEC Championship, Georgia was once again foiled by rival Alabama. Bennett was unable to keep pace with eventual Heisman-winner Bryce Young on the other side. But Kirby again stuck with Bennett as the starter, and to the surprise of many, the decision paid off. Georgia made easy work of Michigan in the semifinals, and Bennett led a 4th quarter comeback against Alabama in the Championship game.
Bennett returned, finally, as the undoubted starter. Now with a championship in his pocket and a full grasp of the starting job, Bennett played through the season with a ton of confidence and shed his game-manager label to become a Heisman candidate. He completed over 68 percent of his passes, threw for over 4000 yards, and accounted for 37 total touchdowns–27 passing, 10 rushing.
Bennett led a huge comeback against Ohio State in the semifinal, a shootout which Georgia won 42-41 before the Dogs absolutely curb-stomped TCU in the final. Bennett had won another Championship, and he secured his legacy as one of the most consequential QBs in Georgia history.
Of course, Bennett had a ton of help along the way. He was surrounded by five stars and was propped up by the best defense in the country. Georgia’s identity was a defensive team, and that defense was the main reason that they won back-to-back championships.
Having said that, the quarterback still matters, and it’d be silly to suggest that Bennett had nothing to do with those championships. He played really well in 2021 and was near flawless in 2022. Considering how he started his career, it’s crazy that he ended up at this point.
And yes, Bennett made use of all his eligibility for a full six years of college playing time. He is now 25 years old, a fact that the internet people have made sure to mention time and time again.
But while playing with that much experience against younger college kids surely has its benefits, Bennett still deserves credit for what he was able to accomplish. It’s not like his age gave him some massively increased physical advantage, as he’s never been that physically imposing of a guy.
The quarterback position is a nuanced position that is generally more cerebral than physical, and it’s the improvement in playing quarterback (as opposed to becoming a different athlete), that saw Bennett shine to finish off his Bulldog career.
Bennett As A NFL Player
As an NFL prospect, Steson Bennett makes for a very interesting evaluation. As I just alluded to, he really doesn’t have the physical tools to be an elite NFL starter, which is likely why he did stay in college for so long. He’s 5’11” and 192 pounds without any elite arm talent. And unlike this year’s first overall pick, Bryce Young, he does not seem to have any truly elite traits that would make up for his size.
Because of this, as well as, the fact that so much of his college success was due to being on an absolutely stacked team, it was highly unlikely that Bennett would be drafted highly or looked at as a current NFL starter. Think of all the former successful Georgia and Alabama quarterbacks that relied on defense and/or lacked elite physical traits: AJ McCarron, Greg McElroy, Aaron Murray, Jake Fromm, etc. Bennett mostly fits that mold. Some of those guys had NFL success as backups, whereas others did not last in the NFL.
Then again, is a two-time national champion QB and a Heisman contender really a guy that it’s not worth taking a chance on? Let alone a guy that showed massive improvement and mental toughness and dedication throughout his college career? Clearly, Sean McVay doesn’t think so. He drafted Bennett in the fourth round and spoke glowingly about him afterward.
A fourth-round pick is not a throwaway pick, so it’s worth wondering what McVay has in mind for Bennett. There are those who have wondered if he could become the eventual Rams starter, should Matthew Stafford decide to retire in the next 2-3 years. While McVay’s “genius” label from the early Goff days has mostly faded, he’s still looked at by many as one of the better offensive and QB coaches in the game. We know what he was able to do with Stafford, and Baker Mayfield looked solid at times in limited action last year. Could he groom Bennett into an eventual starter?
There were also some non-insignificant character concerns that came to the surface with Bennett this off-season. He was arrested in the middle of the night for public intoxication while banging on a door. His response to it wasn’t great, and there were some other character concerns as well. Bennett was always a fiery competitor at Georgia, but if you can’t keep that ego in check off the field, then that’s a problem. The NFL backup QB has to be a consummate professional and stay out of the headlines. Bennett does not have enough talent for teams to tolerate any other issues, so it’s something worth keeping an eye on, especially when living in a party city, like LA
Ultimately, there seems to be a pretty wide range of outcomes when it comes to Stetson Bennett’s NFL future. Whether he looks more like the quarterback who won two national championships, or the quarterback that couldn’t even hold onto a starting spot, only time will tell.