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Raiders Draft 2023: Jakorian Bennett will get his chance to stick

Depth or lack thereof opens prime opportunity for 4th-round pick

NCAA Football: Purdue at Maryland
Jakorian Bennett, right, had a penchant of being around the ball during his time at Maryland. The Las Vegas Raiders hope the rookie can do the same at the pro level.
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Name recognition is considerably light when it comes to the Las Vegas Raiders cornerback room. Outside perhaps veterans Duke Shelly, Nate Hobbs, and Brandon Facyson, there isn’t a solid household name in the CB room.

And that’s a good thing for Jakorian Bennett.

Despite having 10 players at the cornerback spot, the fourth-round rookie out of Maryland is afforded a prime opportunity to prove he deserves to stick on the roster. He’s the only rook on Las Vegas’ 90-man roster, however, fortunately for the speedy corner, he has the ball disruption skills the Raiders so desperately need.

Standing at 5-foot-11 and 195 pounds, Bennett has requisite size for the NFL game. He’s also equipped with scintillating speed (as evidenced by his 4.30-flat 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine) that allows him to not only stick with faster receivers, but gives Bennett outstanding closing and makeup ability. He played in 28 career games in his three seasons as a Terrapin (24 starts) and had more pass breakups than contests played with 31. In addition, Bennett intercepted five total passes (three in 2021 and two in 2022) during his stint at Maryland.

As part of an supremely aggressive and ultra athletic Maryland secondary that featured cornerback Deonte Banks go to the New York Giants with the 24th overall pick, Bennett was a high-volume disruptor for the Terrapins. And that was most definitely appealing to Raiders general manager Dave Ziegler.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: FEB 02 Reese’s Senior Bowl Practice
The Las Vegas Raiders got to see Maryland cornerback Jakorian Bennett up close and personal during the Senior Bowl. That valuable intel helped the team trade up and make him a fourth-round pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

“It was an area we wanted to improve as a team, just ball disruption. It wasn’t a statistical category that we ranked very highly in last year. And so, Jakorian, I think in the last two years he had more plays on the ball, one of the top players in college football in terms of making plays on the ball,” Ziegler said in his post Day 3 NFL Draft media session. “And so, guys that can make plays on the football and disrupt the football, or disrupt the pocket which can cause disruptive plays and things of that nature were some definitely influential factors. Especially when you’re looking at corners, you’re always going to that stat sheet when you’re starting to watch a corner and see what their production was, or lack of production was, or what the history was there.”

Las Vegas needs every bit of Bennett’s skillset and production at the pro level. As Ziegler noted the Raiders didn’t nearly accomplish as much disruption in 2022 and with 2023 being a difficult schedule slate for the Silver & Black, increased ability to get after the ball is a must-do.

Expect the competition for starting spots to be thick and heavy for the cornerback room.

What works in Bennett’s favor is he brings a three-phases ability with him to the desert, which should allow him to showcase his talents in a variety of ways. At Maryland, he played primarily on the perimeter but did move inside to the slot, too. And he was a standout gunner on punt coverage by using both his speed and secure tackling ability. Special teams is often the most direct route to stick to an NFL teams 53-man roster and Las Vegas does have a need for impact special teamers, too.

While Bennett comes with speed, read-and-react skills, and the ability to tilt 50/50 passes in his favor, there are things that need to be shored up in rookie and ensuing training camps — namely — finding balance in his aggression. Bennett’s uncanny ability to diagnose and fight for the ball at its catch point is a tremendous plus. But with that comes his penchant to be hyper aggressive and physical during those times which draws the penalties. While Bennett didn’t give up a single touchdown in 2022, he was flagged six times for pass interference that season (13 over the last two seasons).

But for a team like the Raiders — one devoid of playmakers — the tradeoff between ball disruption and penalties may be something the team can live with as Bennett develops as a pro.