If you’re not familiar with the Biblical story of Lazarus, let me give you the much abbreviated account of it: He was a man whom everyone knew to be dead and thus he absolutely caught everyone by surprise when he returned from the Great Beyond.
Cedric Benson has completed a journey that is only slightly less impressive.
Benson was considered a “can’t miss” prospect when the Chicago Bears drafted him fourth overall in the 2005 NFL Draft, the first running back off the board in what was considered to be a deep class.
All summer long, fantasy owners around the world bandied about their opinions of which of three running backs would end up as the best option: Benson, Ronnie Brown, or Carnell “Cadillac” Williams (for the record, the best running back in that class from a career-long fantasy perspective ended up being Frank Gore, who wasn’t taken until the third round).
There was much reason for optimism in Benson’s case: a four year starter at Texas, he rushed for 5,540 yards, second on the all-time list to Ricky Williams. At 5'11" and 225 lbs., he had an intriguing blend of speed and power.
Though not primarily known as being a receiver, Benson had soft hands as well and showed that he could be three-down running back. There was nothing standing in his way to fantasy prominence.
Well...except himself, that is.
Benson held out of Bears training camp for most of the summer while waiting to be signed to a lucrative contract. When he finally did report, he found that Thomas Jones was the favored member of the backfield. Benson played second fiddle to Jones for nearly two years before finally establishing himself.
However, while he may have ended up as Chicago’s starting running back, the results were hardly good for his fantasy owners. Between 2007 and 2009, he eclipsed the 100-yard mark in a game just four times and scored a grand total of six touchdowns.
He was called a bust. His fantasy career was considered over...finito...the ol’ dirt nap. Even when he was traded to Cincinnati, critics scoffed and said it wouldn’t make a bit of difference. “Once a loser, always a loser” was a common refrain.
Well, Benson ultimately had the last laugh as, in his past two seasons with the Bengals, he has rushed for nearly 2,000 yards and scored 8 touchdowns despite missing seven games over the time period.
Can he continue to write his improbable comeback story? You better believe it.
Cincinnati has provided a road-grading offensive line in front of him, upgraded their passing game to take pressure off and he has no serious challengers to take carries away from him. He is also relatively fresh after his years in a timeshare. He is ripe for another 300 carry campaign and, in today’s “committee backfield” NFL, you can’t buy that sort of assurance of success.
If you think that you’ll be seeing Benson make it past the second round in just about any type of draft, your chances of landing him will be as dead as his career was once thought to be.
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