Spotlight - RB Cedric Benson, Chicago Bears
Posted 8/22 by Jason Wood and Chase Stuart,
Exclusive to Footballguys.com
Jason Wood's Thoughts
I'm not sure what people have against Cedric Benson. He was a DOMINANT four-year starter for a major collegiate powerhouse (University of Texas). During his time at UT he was both a workhorse AND highly productive.
- 2001 -- 223 rushes for 1,053 yards (4.7 YPC), 12 TDs
- 2002 -- 305 rushes for 1,293 yards (4.2 YPC), 12 TDs
- 2003 -- 258 rushes for 1,360 yards (5.3 YPC), 21 TDs
- 2004 -- 326 rushes for 1,834 yards (5.6 YPC), 19 TDs
Those are FANTASTIC numbers, and he got better with each season. Don't lose sight of those TD numbers, as Benson's greatest attribute is arguably his vision at the goal line.
For those who don't follow college football, realize that Ricky Williams and Priest Holmes were also UT backs. Benson has a great pedigree behind him. People were willing to anoint Willis McGahee last year despite a busted knee because of his Miami pedigree, yet Benson did it as well for longer at a program of similar import.
Benson is an ideal fit with the Bears to boot. One year running the Terry Shea offense was enough, and the Bears correctly changed course and brought back Ron Turner to re-implement a power running game that will take opportunistic shots downfield. Make no mistake about it, the team identified Benson as THE GUY to make Turner's offense work. For those who point to Thomas Jones' presence, remember that had the team really felt Jones was the answer, they certainly wouldn't have used the 4th overall pick on another tailback; it's not as though the Bears were without other needs.
- Benson had a sterling collegiate career and has the size (5'10", 222 lbs.), speed (4.5), resume and vision to be dominant
- Ron Turner wants to run a smash mouth between-the-tackles style that perfectly suits Benson's skill set
- The Bears defense should be solid, allowing the team to stay in games and remain committed to the running attack
- Benson was one of the last 1st round rookies to sign, and has dug himself a hole trying to overtake incumbent Thomas Jones as the starter
- With Rex Grossman out, the Bears could once again be limited in the passing game, which would allow opposing defenses to key on the run
- Thomas Jones has looked solid in Benson's absence, and clearly has supporters on the team and in the coaching staff
I'm not overly concerned by Benson's holdout because running back is largely an instinctual position. The one area that must be watched closely is how well Benson picks up his pass blocking assignments. The Longhorns didn't throw much, and Benson is raw as a pass blocker (but not deficient). With Thomas Jones trying to hang onto his job, Benson needs to come out guns blazing in the final few weeks of camp. BUT, don't forget two things. One, rookie RBs can have immediate success and at least one ALWAYS ends up with fantasy-starting caliber numbers at year end. Two, the Bears want to run the ball A LOT, have the coaches, offensive line and defense to allow it, and used the 4th overall pick to bring Benson into the fold.
Chase Stuart's Thoughts
Neal Anderson, 1989. Thatís the last time the Chicago Bears had a 1,200 yard rusher. Neal Anderson, 1988. Thatís the last a Chicago Bear had twelve rushing TDs in a season. And in the Chicago Bears storied history, Walter Payton is the only player to have 300 carries in a single season. The Bears hope all that changes with the two words they announced this past April 23rd: Cedric Benson.
Benson averaged 278 carries, 1,385 rushing yards and 16 rushing touchdowns during his four year career at the University of Texas. He had forty rushing touchdowns his last two seasons, and he rushed for 1,834 yards as a senior. Benson is a workhorse RB, carrying over 25 times on twenty-one different occasions as a Longhorn. Texas went 25-0 when Benson went over 100 yards, and he set an NCAA record by scoring in 37 different games.
Bensonís powerful, quick and possesses good vision. But there are questions about his ability in the passing game, specifically in pass protection. The Bears have a lot invested in QB Rex Grossman and WR Muhsin Muhammad, and Benson will need to be an adequate blocker to be the feature RB. Thomas Jones was the top RB in fantasy football early last year before Rex Grossmanís season ending injury (445 total yards and four touchdowns through three weeks). Considering Jonesí expertise as both a blocker and receiver, itís conceivable that heíll cut into Bensonís playing time, at least early on.
- Benson excelled in a major conference, ending his career as one of the most productive RBs in college history.
- Despite having two proven RBs in Anthony Thomas and Thomas Jones, Bearsí management used their highest draft choice in 25 years to select Benson. Heíll be given every chance to succeed.
- Bensonís a workhorse, and that should make him an excellent fantasy prospect down the road. He may never be a big play guy, a great receiver or a high YPC player, but he should see multiple 300-carry seasons.
- The addition of Muhsin Muhammad instantly upgrades the Bears receiving corps, and will prevent defenses from keying in on Benson.
- Benson may not be the opening day starter, and he may not be the third down RB all season. Thomas Jones isnít going to just disappear (he may get hurt), but heís certainly a threat.
- Chicago is awfully thin at QB, and the Bears offense took a huge hit when Grossman went down last year. Many questions remain surrounding Grossmanís ability to stay healthy and play well.
- Benson probably wonít have many receptions this year, and is likely to be a slow starter; in points per reception leagues he has less value. In all leagues, he may be much more of a factor in helping you win during the playoffs, as opposed to helping you reach the playoffs.
The last five seasons, twelve rookie RBs have scored over 130 fantasy points. Clinton Portis, Mike Anderson, Willis McGahee, Jamal Lewis, Dominic Rhodes, Dom Davis, Marcel Shipp, Anthony Thomas, Kevin Jones, William Green and Julius Jones all had big second halves. Additionally, all of them either started the season hurt, poorly or as a backup. Only LaDainian Tomlinson played well wire to wire as a rookie.
Of those first eleven rookie RBs, as a group they averaged 9.4 FP/G in weeks 1-9, and 17.2 FP/G from weeks 10-17. Thatís a HUGE split. That group averaged over 100 rushing yards per game in the second half of the season (as opposed to just 57 during the first nine weeks), and scored twice as often per game.
The big difference between Cedric Benson and most of those players is that he was the fourth pick in the draft, and is expected to make an impact immediately. If Thomas Jones gets hurt early on, Bensonís fantasy value shoots through the roof. But with a healthy Thomas Jones in place, itís wise to be cautious and temper your rookie enthusiasm.
Quotations from the Message Board Thread
To view the entire Player Spotlight thread (there's a ton of fantastic commentary in there),
Winning IS Everything:
Benson has great talent and is great for dynasty leagues, but mid tier for redrafts. I see Jones starting early in the year and spelling him on 3rd downs. That will kill you in [point per reception] leagues.
I have seen no reason why Benson would even approach the starting role prior to somewhere in Weeks 4-6. This does not mean he won't get carries and I could easily see him getting 10 - 12 carries a game on average over the first 10 weeks. That type of production will not lead to much in the way of fantasy points and makes him a VERY poor choice in Redrafts this year.
I don't get a good read on Benson yet but it's hard to argue with the success he had in college. I think after a few preseason games we'll be able to tell if he's ROY material or just another rookie RB trying to find his way to mid-season. I think Thomas Jones has got to have some impact on Benson's playing time early on but Benson should be the man by mid-season.
Cedric Benson Projections
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