The Dallas Cowboys could look to the NFL Draft to get defensive help inside – and they are watching Keeanu Benton.
The Dallas Cowboys successfully re-signed veteran nose tackle Jonathan Hankins, who they traded for from the Las Vegas Raiders before last season’s NFL trade deadline. But despite prioritizing their own on the interior of the defensive line, the Cowboys were unable to bring back fellow veteran Carlos Watkins.
Watkins and Hankins were the top two 1-techniques (outside shoulder of center) on the depth chart when healthy for the Cowboys this past season. However, after Watkins’ signing with the Arizona Cardinals, Dallas could use help on the interior.
This is where the NFL Draft may come into play for the Cowboys’ task of replenishing that depth. For all of the recent talk of drafting Michigan’s Mazi Smith at No. 26, the Cowboys are also potentially interested in Wisconsin’s Keeanu Benton, as defensive line coach Aden Durde (a primary lieutenant of coordinator Dan Quinn) was in attendance for the Badgers Pro Day.
The 6-foot-4, 309-pound Benton starred at the Reese’s Senior Bowl in March with his powerful hands and sudden burst.
Keeanu Benton whew pic.twitter.com/eUgp7AlJqu
— Billy M (@BillyM_91) February 1, 2023
The Athletic NFL Draft analyst Dane Brugler recently ranked Benton No. 53 overall. … and his work at Wisconsin tells you why.
Benton was used almost everywhere along the Badgers’ defensive line but primarily lined up as a 1-technique, where he could fit in on the Cowboys’ defense. But after seeing his improvement in the pass-rushing department, which he showcased later into his senior season and in Mobile, Alabama, he could also play as a 3-technique (outside shoulder of the guard).
“He’s a beast!” said Wisconsin teammate John Torchio.
Many projections have Benton going in the second round. The Cowboys should be interested due to his ability to hold down a gap in the run game and the combination of his power and sudden burst, which makes him a hard one-on-one block.
And while the primary responsibility of a true nose tackle is to draw double-teams and clog the middle of the line, Benton could also highlight as a 3-tech which would allow him to be used as more of a penetrator.