Rookie running back could be a boon for the Cardinals
When the Arizona Cardinals snagged former Arizona State standout Eno Benjamin in the 7th round, many were surprised. Not that the Cardinals would take a running back, but that such a talented one would fall so low.
The projected 4th rounder fell all the way to the 222nd overall pick, but that is all the better for the Cardinals as they were able to pick up a talented, dual-threat back while spending very little draft capital. Historically, the team has not had great success with drafting running back minus the few years of amazing production David Johnson gave the team.
Let’s look at why Eno Benjamin might change that
First, look at Benjamin’s college production. In three seasons as an Arizona State Sundevil he racked up 2,867 rushing yards and 625 receiving yards. When you take into account the backup role he played his freshmen year, only tallying 142 rushing yards, you see he averaged 1,364 yards on the ground in his two years as the Sundevils’ main back.
Those would be great rushing numbers for any college running back, but it is important to also look at what he does catching the ball. The numbers aren’t gaudy, 263 in 2019 and 347 in 2019, yet his catching ability is the most intriguing aspect of his game. Impacting those numbers, Arizona State has been blessed in recent years with a talented wide receiver core that included 2 1st round picks in N’Keal Harry and Brandon Aiyuk and thus did not need to rely on the running back as much as some other teams.
Although his receiving numbers are slightly skewed due to the situation he had in college, it is well-known that Benjamin is dangerous with the ball in his hands. According to PFF, during Benjamin’s breakout 2018 season he forced 84 missed tackles. In that same season, he logged 300 carries that resulted in 1,642 yards and 16 touchdowns.
Yes, right now the Cardinals are banking on Kenyan Drake having a full year of high-end production, but Drake is still on a one-year, $8.4 million, tender with no long-term deal in place. Chase Edmonds earned his spot as RB2 last season when he briefly took over David Johnson’s role, but in Kingsbury’s offense three talented running backs, all of whom can run and catch, could be a very dangerous combination.
Expect there to be some playing time for Benjamin this season, and when he does get the chance, don’t be surprised if he makes the most of it. Benjamin could very easily find himself as an important piece of the Kingsbury offense this season and in years to come.