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Kurt Benkert may go from prolific college passer to NFL practice squad

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After only two years at Virginia, Kurt Benkert owns several records and is not far behind in others. Will it be enough to guarantee him a roster spot in the NFL?

NCAA Football: Virginia at Oregon Cole Elsasser-USA TODAY Sports

The Bengals have work to do in the draft to fix the biggest holes on the roster, specifically with the offensive line. But after the biggest weaknesses are addressed, the Bengals can turn their attention to other parts of the team that need upgrades. While Andy Dalton has the quarterback position locked down and Matt Barkley and Jeff Driskel are his current backups, it’s possible the Bengals will take another signal caller in the draft. From Lamar Jackson to Luke Falk to Quinton Flowers, many think an extra quarterback will be in the cards for Cincinnati. Interestingly, two of those three quarterbacks have been in the conversation for changing positions.

Depending on how early the Bengals want to draft a quarterback, the team might get a good bargain with Kurt Benkert. Despite being the first quarterback in the University of Virginia’s history to pass for 3,000 yards in a single season, Benkert is projected to fall to the last day of the draft. He is extremely raw, but the Bengals may opt to pour some coaching into the former Cavalier, which could help him turn into a solid player.

Profile:

Height: 6’4”

Weight: 215 pounds

Hands: 9 1/4”

Arm length: 32”

College: Virginia

Year: Redshirt Senior

Projected Round: Rounds 6-7

College Stats:

Passing yards: 5,817 career; 3,207 in 2017 (school record)

Passing touchdowns: 46 career; 25 in 2017

Completion percentage: 57.7 career; 58.5 in 2017

Rating: 122.4 career; 124.1 in 2017

Combine Stats:

40-yard dash: 4.95 seconds

Vertical jump: 31.0”

Broad jump: 112.0”

College Highlights:

Analysis:

Kurt Benkert showed flashes of talent his final year at Virginia, but he is also largely undeveloped.

Benkert was one of Virginia’s most prolific passers despite only playing there for two years. He started his career with Eastern Carolina in 2013 and, after redshirting his first year, finally won the starting job in 2015. However, he injured his knee before the season started and never won the starting job back. After graduating in three years, he transferred to UVA where he became the starter for 23 of the 24 games he played there.

Benkert is leaving the Cavaliers after passing Matt Schaub’s single season record for passing yards and sitting behind Schaub in second or third place in many other single season and career categories. The fact that Benkert only played for two years in Charlottesville and sits in third place for career yards and touchdowns really says something about his talent.

The unique thing about Benkert is that he seems to thrive outside the pocket better than any other quarterback. Film of Benkert might remind you of Russell Wilson; both are great at escaping the pocket when there’s pressure, rolling out, and flinging the ball downfield with almost no effort. Benkert has the arm strength to make almost any throw he needs to, both set in the pocket or on the run. His mobility in the pocket helped him play behind a weak offensive line, which should help him if he ever plays behind the Bengals’ line.

Even though his career production is not all that impressive, one must keep in mind that over his nine years high school and college he played for five different programs. This has probably been detrimental to his development, so the Bengals should know that if they draft Benkert, they are taking on a project. Physically, Benkert has what NFL scouts are looking for, but he has some bad habits to break.

For starters, Benkert does not progress through his reads very well. He would stare down his first target for so long that either defenders would jump the routes or the pocket would collapse around him. His awkward delivery would sometimes cause balls to come out of his hand a little wobbly. While at times Benkert could drop the ball anywhere on the field, he also had some wild throws.

Benkert really would have benefited from more years in college. Unfortunately, he ran out of eligibility, so the NFL is a necessary next step. If the Bengals end up going with Benkert in the later rounds of the draft, he will have to be the last quarterback on the depth chart, if not a practice squad player. He won’t be ready to play for a few years at least. With all of the late round picks the Bengals have, it will be impossible for all of them to make the roster, so taking a chance on Benkert shouldn’t blow up in their face. But they need to invest as much coaching as they can if they want Benkert to play under center in Paul Brown Stadium.