Stetson Bennett may have just won big again.
The Georgia Bulldogs quarterback, despite winning back-to-back national titles, was largely a high-profile afterthought as the hype surged in touting the top signal-callers in the 2023 NFL draft.
But look at Bennett now. That was some stroke of fortune that the Los Angeles Rams came of their so-called draft lab and took him in the fourth round on Saturday. Bingo. Bennett, 25, will be groomed by Rams coach Sean McVay.
Despite the Rams’ collapse last season as the worst defending Super Bowl champ in history, it’s more than a good thing that Bennett can try fixing his mechanics under the watchful eye of one of the NFL’s most creative offensive minds. Another box is checked for landing with a team where he conceivably won’t have the pressure to develop quickly while serving as an understudy to a fellow Georgia alum, Matthew Stafford.
Sure, it’s the NFL. Things happen. Bennett, the only quarterback besides Stafford currently on the Rams roster, could be one snap away from the front lines. Remember, the San Francisco 49ers went to the NFC title game in January with rookie quarterback Brock Purdy, the last man drafted in 2022, striking fire as an emergency fill-in.
If Stafford stays healthy, though, it could afford a manageable developmental curve for Bennett without the pressure of having to relieve a Super Bowl-winning quarterback and step in as The Man.
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There are reasons why Bennett, the seventh quarterback drafted, wasn’t in the group of top-tier quarterbacks, which included first-round picks Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud and Anthony Richardson. He had to answer many questions about his off-field decision-making, which was revealed to be a major issue after his arrest in Dallas in January for public intoxication.
Yet there was also the perception that Bennett rode the coattails of immensely talented teams in winning the national crowns. He certainly seemed to play a larger role than the classic "game manager" in helping the Bulldogs roll to a 65-7 victory against TCU in the national title game in January. He passed for 304 yards and four TDs and rushed for two scores in becoming the first player in College Football Playoff history to twice win Offensive MVP honors in the title game.
Perceptions, though, can be tough to shake during the pre-draft shakedown. Despite the honors, a rags-to-riches journey and the tough SEC competition, draft experts rated Bennett as worthy of no better than the area of the draft when he was ultimately selected. While so many of the studs from Georgia’s spectacular defense had their names called early on Thursday and Friday (and so often by the Philadelphia Eagles), the championship quarterback lasted until Day 3, Round 4, 128th overall.
"I made a joke internally that he’s got a bad PR agent because his image is not maybe being, let’s call it a 'talented player,' " Rams GM Les Snead told reporters during a post-draft news conference.
That image, Snead added, "was probably a little false."
McVay suggests that Bennett’s journey – he was originally a walk-on at Georgia, then transferred to play at Jones College before returning – feeds the narrative that he isn’t as talented as other notable quarterbacks.
"Because of the background and the way he became the starter at Georgia is a little bit unconventional and it wasn’t the five-star route … I think it minimized the athleticism, the ability to create off-schedule," McVay said. "He’s a natural thrower of the football. He can play with great anticipation, throws the ball with accuracy, plays within the timing."
The beauty of the draft – and the retrospection that comes in the following years – is how each particular team values one prospect relative to another. McVay pointed to the pro-style system used by coordinator Todd Monken (who left Georgia this year to assume the same title with the Baltimore Ravens) helped in the evaluation.
Snead said the Rams gained more appreciation of Bennett as he repeatedly flashed on the game tapes as they studied how SEC defenders stacked up in matchups against Georgia.
"It was interesting," Snead said. "You just come away going, 'Wow, I thought people said that guy was just maybe, whatever kind of manage-the-game-type QB.' But what you did is you just go, 'Whoa, wait a minute. Look at that guy move. Look at him buy some time. Look at him anticipate some throws.’ And you just come away thinking, ‘Wow, he was a weapon for Georgia.' "
Time will tell whether Snead nailed it. In the meantime, Bennett can’t argue that his NFL draft selection might surely be a case of right time, right place.
Follow USA TODAY Sports' Jarrett Bell on Twitter @JarrettBell.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Stetson Bennett wins again in 2023 NFL draft by being picked by Rams