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Keeanu Benton Offers Starter Potential on the Defensive Line

Hogs Haven takes a look at 2023 NFL Draft prospects that could contribute to the Commanders

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 11 Eastern Michigan at Wisconsin Photo by Dan Sanger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Keeanu Benton, DT

School: Wisconsin | Conference: Big 10

College Experience: Senior | Age: 21

Height / Weight: 6’3” / 312 lbs

Projected Draft Status: 3rd-4th Round

Player Comparison: Kenny Clark

College Statistics

Defense & Fumbles Table
Tackles Def Int Fumbles
Year School Conf Class Pos G Solo Ast Tot Loss Sk Int Yds Avg TD PD FR Yds TD FF
*2019 Wisconsin Big Ten FR NT 8 8 4 12 4.0 2.0 0 0 0 0 0 0
*2020 Wisconsin Big Ten SO NT 7 5 4 9 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0 0 2
*2021 Wisconsin Big Ten JR NT 12 11 13 24 5.0 2.5 0 0 0 2 2 0
*2022 Wisconsin Big Ten SR DT 12 20 16 36 10.0 4.5 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 0
Career Wisconsin 44 37 81 19.0 9.0 0 0 0 4 2 0 0 2
Provided by CFB at Sports Reference: View Original Table
Generated 2/16/2023.

Player Overview

Keeanu Benton’s college football career almost never came to be. He was a lightly-recruited three-star prospect, but his wrestling coach was able to get him on the Badgers’ radar. Once in Madison, Benton put his wrestling background to use quickly. He finished the season as the starting nose tackle. While his stats may not be impressive his first three years, he played an important role occupying blockers and freeing up players like Leo Chanel and Jack Sanborn to make plays. In his senior year, he did less two-gapping and used his athleticism to make more plays upfield. The results were highs in tackles, tackles for loss, and sacks. Benton is also on Bruce Feldman’s 2022 Freaks List.


  • Quickness and athleticism at his size is impressive
  • Plays with great leverage; rarely moved backwards in the run game
  • Active hands rushing the passer with excellent arm-over move
  • Disruptive, using quickness or strength to make plays in the backfield


  • Ends up on the ground more than he should
  • Can play too upright and allows himself to be controlled by blockers
  • Allows himself to get washed out of plays
  • Conditioning might be an issue; seemed less effective as games progressed

Let’s see his work

How he fits on the Commanders

The Commanders have a big decision to make along the defensive line. Daron Payne is set to be a free agent and the team needs to re-sign him, franchise tag him, or lose him via a trade or free agency. If Payne is gone, the team will need to look for options to replace him. Phidarian Mathis might be able to fill some of that void, but he’s a big question mark and returning from significant injury. John Ridgeway performed well as a rotational player, but is he ready to start? A player like Benton might be able to compete for a starting role and, at the very least, could be an important rotational piece in Jack Del Rio’s defense. He has experience being a run-stopping nose tackle, but I think he offers enough value as a pass rusher to stay on the field in passing situations. He may not be as strong and athletic as Payne, but he could help fill the void if Payne is no longer on the team.