LOS ANGELES – Stetson Bennett will get the chance to deliver for the Los Angeles Rams.
Los Angeles grabbed Georgia’s two-time national championship-winning quarterback in the fourth round Saturday, higher than many draft observers predicted.
With no quarterbacks on their roster behind fellow ex-Bulldog Matthew Stafford, the Rams decided they wouldn't take the risk of waiting to land a prospect greatly admired by coach Sean McVay.
“People take for granted that this guy is just a really good football player because of the background and the way he became the starter at Georgia was a little bit unconventional, and it wasn’t the five-star route,” McVay said. “But I think it minimized the athleticism, the ability to create off-schedule. He’s a natural thrower of the football. ... He’s around great players, but he elevated those guys.”
Bennett was the biggest name among a whopping 14 players added to the Rams this weekend as they restocked their badly depleted roster through the draft.
After adding TCU guard Steve Avila with their second-round pick Friday, Los Angeles' Day 3 group included Warren McClendon, Bennett's right tackle at Georgia; three more players from the 2020 and 2021 Horned Frogs, including impressive cornerback Tre'Vius Hodges-Tomlinson; and Ethan Evans, a punter from Division II Wingate.
The biggest name by far was the 25-year-old Bennett, whose unlikely route from junior college to the pinnacle of collegiate success has been well documented, but the NFL worthiness of the quirky, 5-foot-11 quarterback sometimes known as “The Mailman” has been hotly debated for years.
The Rams clearly love Bennett’s skill set and pedigree, even if his measurable talents don’t match other prospects.
McVay said he admires Bennett's tough-nosed, resourceful style of play: "I think there’s an edge to him that’s a positive. You want some competitors that have some stuff to them that (when) things don’t always go well, they’re unfazed and they can kind of move on and be able to reset themselves.”
Bennett was surprised to learn of the Rams' strong interest in him, but thrilled to land with one of the NFL's most respected offensive coaches.
“I love competing against the best, and it helps when you’ve got the best on your team,” Bennett said. “I think we do, not that I know that much. But obviously, if you’ve won a Super Bowl in the past few years, you know what you’re doing. I’m excited to learn. It’s an honor that those coaches and GM thought enough of me to pick me, and now it’s my job to go and get better every day.”
Bennett is the first quarterback drafted by the Rams since McVay became their head coach in 2017. He will join Stafford, the Super Bowl winner who is under contract for the next four seasons.
“We wanted to have an all-Athens, UGA quarterback room, and that’s what we’ve got right now," laughed McVay, who grew up in the Atlanta suburbs.
Rams general manager Les Snead said he watched plenty of Georgia video in recent years because the way a defender plays against the Bulldogs' vaunted offense is a valuable scouting tool.
“You come away going, ‘Wow, I thought people said that guy was just whatever, a manage-the-game-type QB,” Snead said. “What you (see) is, ’Whoa, wait a minute. Look at that guy move. Look at him buy some time. Look at him anticipate some throws.' You come away thinking he was a weapon for Georgia. I made a joke internally that, boy, he’s got a bad PR agent, because his image is not maybe being, let's call it, a talented player. It was a little false.”
Bennett met Stafford for the first time at the College Football Playoff championship game at SoFi Stadium last January, but he grew up watching Stafford, Knowshon Moreno and their fellow Bulldogs.
Bennett remained a fan of Stafford after he landed with the Detroit Lions.
“He's one of the most talented quarterbacks that's ever played the game, and he's tough as nails," Bennett said. "I'm excited to just go in there, be quiet, take notes and learn.”
Now Bennett is headed back to SoFi, where he played superbly in the Bulldogs’ 65-7 victory over TCU.
Some thought the Rams reached for a backup QB, but they timed it well: Three more quarterbacks were drafted in the 12 picks after they grabbed Bennett. The Rams hadn't drafted a quarterback since trading up to get Jared Goff with the No. 1 overall pick in 2016.
The Rams' two backup quarterbacks last season — John Wolford and Bryce Perkins — both struggled behind a poor offensive line after Stafford was injured. Los Angeles turned in desperation to Baker Mayfield, who beat the Raiders two days after joining the team off the waiver wire and eventually started the final five games.