Some NFL draft prospects don’t watch a ton of football outside of the film they’re required to watch for their college teams. Ja’Whaun Bentley certainly is not one of those players.
Bentley, whom the New England Patriots selected Bentley in the fifth round of the 2018 NFL Draft (No. 143 overall), is a true student of the game.
During his introductory conference call with New England reporters, the former Purdue linebacker referenced several Patriots ‘backers from years past, including some who began their careers before he was born.
“I watched a lot of football, so I’ve seen a lot of guys come from the Patriots,” the 21-year-old said Saturday afternoon. “Even back in the Tedy Bruschi, Adalius Thomas days. (Fellow Purdue products) Roosevelt Colvin (and) Rob Ninkovich. Guys like that. I definitely watched a lot ball, watched a lot of guys play, the history of ‘backer. Dont’a Hightower (is) one of my favorites.
“It’s definitely a good system as far as a linebacker is concerned, so I’m just excited to get to work.”
Bentley now will have the opportunity to play alongside Hightower, who missed the second half of last season with a torn pectoral muscle. He joins a Patriots linebacking corps that also features Kyle Van Noy, Elandon Roberts, Marquis Flowers, Harvey Langi and Nicholas Grigsby.
“I definitely like (Hightower’s) style of play,” Bentley said. “He’s definitely a physical guy. He’s a physical guy and versatile, and that’s one of the things that jumps out to you. And I watched a lot of him when he was at Alabama.”
Bentley, who led the Boilermakers with 97 tackles as a senior, referred to himself as a “thumper” multiple times during his chat with reporters, and he projects as a better run defender than cover man at the NFL linebacker. He bristled at the “old-school linebacker” label, though.
“I really don’t like that,” said Bentley, who primarily played off the line at Purdue but lined up on the edge at the Senior Bowl. “I don’t like to label myself. I think I can be just about anything.”
Thumbnail photo via Patrick Gorski/USA TODAY Sports Images