In the midst of a thoroughly impressive 2023 draft class on paper by the Pittsburgh Steelers, Keeanu Benton is a name that almost gets lost in the shuffle. Benton was Pittsburgh's original second-round pick in the 2023 NFL Draft and the 49th selection overall.
Every year, I do a deep dive into the film of each Steelers draft pick and spend time coming up with high-end, low-end, and most likely NFL player comparisons for each. In my scouting report on Benton, I concluded that the former Wisconsin stud has a solid blend of size, length, and traits, but he doesn't really have a niche at the moment. Here are my player comps for Benton in the NFL.
High-end NFL comparison: Daron Payne
This is an extremely high-end NFL player comparison for Keeanu Benton, but if he reaches his ceiling, this might not be out of the question. Daron Payne had a career year with the Commanders in 2022 that included 11.5 sacks, 18 tackles for a loss, and 5 passes defended, via ESPN stats. As a result, he earned a massive four-year, $90 million extension with Washington during the 2023 offseason.
Admittedly, it would be remarkable if Benton ever reached this status, but it's not impossible. In terms of size and athletic traits, these two players are very similar. In fact, Benton is taller with slightly longer arms and both players weighed in around 310 pounds at the NFL Combine.
Despite outstanding statistical production in 2022, Payne has never been a player who lit up the stat sheet prior to this past season. In his first four years as a starter, he never recorded more than 5.0 sacks or 7 tackles for a loss in a season. In addition to this, Payne graded out as just the 60th-best interior defender in 2022 and has always fallen between 38th and 67th in his first five years in the league.
Again, this would be the best-case scenario for Keeanu Benton, but these two players have similar size, length, play styles, and athletic traits. If Benton can make big strides early on, this might not be out of the question as far as an NFL career path goes.