Regina DL Anthony Bennett values drills over testing at CFL Combine: ‘Measurables always are overrated’

Photo: Michael Scraper/3DownNation. All rights reserved.

The CFL Combine has an expanded format this year featuring several days of practices in addition to its usual testing events and on-field drills. University of Regina defensive lineman Anthony Bennett is a big fan of the change, calling the testing portion of the event “1,000 percent” overrated.

“I think the measurables always are overrated,” Bennett told 3DownNation. “(The testing events) will help some of these guys that never put this stuff on tape. But with guys that have a nice little resume already, this is just (a chance for scouts to say), ‘Hey, I never got a chance to see it live-action. I’ve seen it on film but let’s just make sure this is real.'”

Bennett tested relatively well on Thursday, recording 16 reps on the bench press, a 4.76-second forty-yard dash, 30-inch vertical, 7.27-second three-cone drill, 4.41-second short shuttle, and a nine-foot, seven-inch broad jump. Even so, Bennett doesn’t appear interested in the numbers, arguing that they don’t tell the full story regarding a prospect’s ability to make plays.

“When does height matter on the field? When does weight matter on the field? Look at how he can run from sideline to sideline, look at how we can play. It’s weird. [A player’s speed might not be] clocked at a 4.3 (in the forty-yard dash) but it’s a 4.3 on the field. I think I truly have those attributes. It’s crazy.”

Bennett was named a first-team U Sports All-Canadian this past year after setting a new school record with eight sacks in the regular season. He also tied Regina’s record for most single-season tackles for loss with 10.5. In a stacked defensive line group in this year’s draft, one could argue that Bennett is coming off the most impressive season.

The six-foot-one, 229-pound edge rusher was born in Weston, Fla. while his father, Charles, was a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. His mother, Patricia, later moved back to Regina, leading him to split his childhood across the border, living in Florida during the school year and Regina during the holidays and summertime.

Bennett’s father isn’t the only member of his family with ties to professional football. His uncle, Tony, played seven years in the NFL with the Green Bay Packers and Indianapolis Colts and his cousin, Michael, was a Pro Bowl running back with the Minnesota Vikings. His older brother, Andrew, also spent time with the Montreal Alouettes as an undrafted free agent in 2018 and 2019.

Bennett’s college career started at Florida Atlantic University where he spent five years, the last three of which came under Lane Kiffin. The former NFL head coach left the Owls for Ole Miss following the 2019 season and his successor, Willie Taggart, made it clear he didn’t want Bennett on the team.

“I wanted to stay. He said, ‘I’m gonna recruit some other guys.’ I had no problem with it. It sounded like I wasn’t welcomed with open arms. That’s OK, I don’t know what he sees wrong in me but I digress, I got better as a man,” said Bennett.

“I was really close to just hanging them up, just being done but I love this game so much. I love the game of football. Without a doubt, everybody that sees me compete in any level — at any sport, really, but mainly football — they’ll see me and they’ll be like, ‘No, I want this guy on my team.’ … Whether I’m coaching, whether I’m playing, I will find a way to win. I don’t know if I got a horseshoe up my butt, but I’ll find you a way to win.”

Regina was Bennett’s second home as a child and, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, it became his second home for football. He had only one year of NCAA eligibility remaining but could play two more years in U Sports, which he did during the 2021 and 2022 seasons with the Rams.

The 26-year-old is one of the oldest players in the draft given how long he spent in the college ranks. Though some would argue that’s a disadvantage, Bennett insists it’s the exact opposite. He believes his age has helped him develop the confidence and maturity necessary to make an immediate impact at the professional level.

“It’s certainly an advantage. Everybody’s coming in here nervous and coaches don’t want to see that. As much as they do, they don’t want to see that. Coaches are gonna know right off the rip, ‘This guy is going to come in and play and dominate this league,'” he said.

The Saskatchewan Roughriders hold two high picks in this year’s draft at third and eleventh overall. Though his stock could still rise or fall ahead of draft day, scouts generally view Bennett as a first-round pick who could slip into the top part of the second round. He would love the opportunity to play for his hometown team, though he would feel equally excited to play elsewhere.

“That’d be great but I’m here for all nine teams in the CFL. There’s no favourites. Everybody’s got a chance to pick me whether it’s one through nine, it’s their option. I am truly invested in myself. I love the game of football, they’re gonna see me this weekend and on and off the field, everyone usually enjoys what I do.”

John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.