Everyone loves running backs. Everyone loves the concept of a run game. That’s until backs show no more value, then individuals are ready to do away with them. I won’t go as far as saying that the Atlanta Falcons don’t see any value at all in current starting running back Devonta Freeman. I will say that his role going forward, if he stays with this team, will likely look a lot different than it has in the past.
If the team does cut Freeman, there really is not anyone behind him who grants plenty of confidence in the run game going forward. Drafting one in 2020 is a possibility. Time to take a look at a running back out of the Pac-12 who produced and produced plenty in 2019.
Eno Benjamin Scouting Report
Weight: 207 pounds
Career stats: 33 career games, 2,867 rushing yards, 27 rushing touchdowns; 82 receptions, 625 yards, four receiving touchdowns
Games watched: 2018 vs. Washington, 2018 vs. UTSA, 2019 vs. Michigan State, 2019 vs. Arizona
A monster season in 2018 as a sophomore placed Benjamin squarely on the draft radar. That season, he carried the rock 300 times for 1,642 yards and 16 touchdowns. He proved to be a workhorse back if called upon and he has not looked back ever since. Despite having somewhat of a smallish frame, Benjamin has a great tendency of running behind his pads and makes himself tough to bring down upon initial contact. Benjamin will be a considerable contributor to the ‘ Yards After Contact’ element.
Benjamin also possesses excellent vision, especially between the tackles when his linemen get upfield. Benjamin has the ability to stay on the field as a three-down running back as he posted 75 catches the past two seasons. Benjamin’s instincts stand out as arguably his best attribute within his skill set. Benjamin was also the type of runner who produced gradually as the game went along, with 708 of his 1,083 rushing yards last season coming in the second half and/or overtime. His running style also shows the creativity to create run lanes on his own, a part of having sound lateral agility.
Benjamin is your classic case of “more quick than fast”. It was evident with his 4.57 timed 40-yard dash at the Combine that long speed may not quite be an asset of his. There is also a little tightness in the hips that affects his overall in space. More times than not, Benjamin will have a tendency of trying to make a long gain out of nothing, instead of taking what the defense provides. While I envision him as a 3-down player at the professional level, his pass protection needs considerable work. Part of it is due to his size as he does not even tip the scale at 210 pounds. Protection from him will likely come in the form of chopping defenders instead of taking them squarely. As mentioned earlier, Benjamin had a monster 2018 but there was a notable drop off in production in just about every facet this past season.
One thing that will rarely get questioned about Benjamin is his effort and overall approach to the game. It is definitely contagious and a lot of his teammates fed off his energy and impact. He does not possess a menacing frame as a running back but you could not tell by watching his tape. He is constantly absorbing contact, falling forward on runs, and looking to pick up chunks of yards on every single play.
Benjamin’s game can be a true asset to the Falcons offense. In some aspects, he does have similarities to Freeman. I can’t place him in the same realm as a few difference making backs in the draft (D’Andre Swift, J.K. Dobbins), but that does not mean Benjamin cannot enhance the Falcons run game if selected. What he lacks in legit game-breaking speed, Benjamin makes up for it in football IQ, effort, and competitiveness — attributes Dan Quinn and Co. love. Look for Benjamin to possibly be on the Falcons’ radar late on Day 2 or early on Day 3 in the draft.