Rams pick Georgia’s Stetson Bennett to follow

Stetson Bennett feels comfortable at SoFi Stadium.

In January, the Georgia quarterback led the Bulldogs to a rout of Texas Christian and won a second consecutive national title.

Now, Bennett is coming back to Los Angeles.

On Saturday, the Rams selected Bennett in the fourth round of the NFL draft, filling a desperate need for a backup quarterback and kicking off a day during which general manager Les Snead and coach Sean McVay selected 11 players.

Coupled with the three players selected Saturday, it was the largest draft class of Snead’s 12-year tenure.

Bennett, 25, became the first quarterback chosen during the McVay era and only the fourth quarterback chosen by Snead since he became general manager in 2012.

Bennett became the first quarterback selected by the Rams since 2016, when they traded up a record 14 spots in the first round to select Jared Goff with the No. 1 pick.

“Excited to work with Coach McVay,” Bennett said, adding, “I hear he’s a genius.”

Starting quarterback Matthew Stafford, acquired before the 2021 season in a trade for Goff, two first-round picks and a third-round pick, led the Rams to a Super Bowl victory in his first season but was sidelined for eight games last season because of injuries.

Bennett, a Georgia native, grew up watching Stafford star for Georgia before Stafford was selected with the first pick in the 2009 draft. Now he will back up Stafford, ostensibly providing the Rams with a player capable of leading the team if Stafford is sidelined, and succeeding him if Stafford retires in the next few years.

“He’s one of the most talented quarterbacks to ever play the game,” Bennett said of Stafford, a 14-year veteran. “And he’s tough as nails, and all of his teammates seem to always like him.

“And so I’m excited to just go in there, be quiet, take notes and learn.”

Bennett began his college career at Georgia as a walk-on but transferred to a junior college. He returned to Georgia, eventually displaced USC transfer J.T. Daniels as the starter and won two national titles.

In 2021, Bennett passed for 29 touchdowns, with seven interceptions. Last season, he passed for 27 touchdowns, with seven interceptions.

Snead said Bennett was beyond a “manage-the-game-type QB” for Georgia.

You just noticed, ‘Whoa, wait a minute, look at that guy move, look at him buy some time, look at him anticipate some throws,’ ” Snead said. “And just you come away thinking, ‘Wow, he was a weapon.’ ”

McVay noted Bennett’s ability to elevate teammates’ play and turn broken plays into productive ones.

“He’s a lot better athlete than people give him credit for,” McVay said, “And I think there’s an edge to him that’s a positive.

“You want some competitors that have some stuff to ‘em, that things don’t always go well, they’re unfazed and they can kind of move on and reset themselves.”

Bennett was arrested in January in Dallas on suspicion of public intoxication but Rams scouts said Saturday that he acknowledged the incident, took responsibility and that it did not negatively affect their evaluation.

Bennett was only one of the needs filled on a roster that is being overhauled because of the Rams’ decision to go into financial austerity mode.

A year after winning Super Bowl LVI, the Rams nosedived to a 5-12 record. They then released veterans such as linebacker Bobby Wagner and edge rusher Leonard Floyd and traded star cornerback Jalen Ramsey and receiver Allen Robinson. They also did not re-sign nearly 20 free agents, including quarterbacks Baker Mayfield, John Wolford and Bryce Perkins.

The Rams aim to go into the 2024 season with $55 million to $65 million in salary-cap space.

On Friday, the Rams selected offensive lineman Steve Avila in the second round, and edge rusher Byron Young and defensive lineman Kobie Turner in the third.

Brigham Young wide receiver Puka Nacua (12) runs after a catch.

Brigham Young wide receiver Puka Nacua (12) runs after a catch.

(Steve Conner / Associated Press)

The Rams made several trades after selecting Bennett and came away with a draft class that included Appalachian State edge rusher Nick Hampton, Georgia offensive tackle Warren McClendon Jr., Clemson tight end Davis Allen and Brigham Young receiver Puka Nacua in the fifth round, Texas Christian cornerback Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson, Nebraska edge rusher Ochaun Mathis and Mississippi running back Zach Evans in the sixth, and Wingate punter Ethan Evans, Oklahoma safety Jason Taylor II and Toledo defensive lineman Desjuan Johnson in the seventh.

Johnson was the final pick in the 259-player draft, the “Mr. Irrelevant” spot San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy was selected with last year.

“We got a lot better in terms of the depth of our football team,” McVay said. “There’s a handful of these guys that are going to come in and have legitimate chances to be starters on opening day.”

Bennett won’t be competing to start, but he is excited about the opportunity to join the Rams.

“I love competing against the best, and it helps when you’ve got the best on your team,” he said. “Obviously, won a Super Bowl in the past few years, you know what you’re doing.

“So I’m excited to learn. And it’s an honor that those coaches and GM thought enough of me to pick me. And now it’s my job to go get better every day.”

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