A Look At The Detroit Lions Signing Of 2018 UDFA Al-Rasheed Benton.
The Detroit Lions added another linebacker to their training camp battle this off-season with the signing of UDFA Al-Rasheed Benton from West Virginia. Benton is arguably the UDFA I look forward to seeing the most during training camp. Poor tackling form hindered his 2017 season production and is likely why he did not hear his name called during the 2018 NFL Draft.
However, in 2016 he only missed 9 tackles all year, so there is a chance last season was an aberration. While typically you bet on the most recent performance being the most accurate of current skill level, as a UDFA signee, there is little downside to this move.
Outside of the missed tackles in 2017, Benton did a good job increasing his performance and production with each successful year at West Virginia. While he did miss over 20 tackles in 2017, he still managed to earn 110 tackles, 13.5 of which came for a loss. He did see a boost to his ability to rush the passer, generating 4 sacks, 10 hurries, and 8 quarterback hits this past season, per PFF.
At 6’1, 230 lbs, there is some valid questioning of how well his size will hold up at the NFL level. It’s important to remember the best ability in the NFL is availability. While it is impossible to know for sure what will happen regarding Benton’s health in the future, he was able to start and finish all 13 games in each of the past two seasons in the SEC. While there is no true comparison to the toll hits from NFL players will take on your body, the SEC is as close as you can get in college. His ability to take the speed and brutality of the SEC shows that at least he has been able to do this in the past.
Given his instincts, leadership, and ability to be a three down interior linebacker, Benton has a shot to play on an NFL roster some day. He has landed in a favorable position in Detroit as the Lions have solid top end talent at linebacker, but lack true depth at the position. Having less bodies to compete with at camp helps his chances of making the roster or practice squad over other UDFAs. If he can show up big on special teams during training camp, and making sure tackles, Benton has an outside shot to be on the Lions roster heading into 2018. Otherwise, he may be relegated to the practice squad to take a red-shirt year to help him build mass and develop a more consistent tackling ability.