Eno Benjamin, RB, Arizona State
(percentile rank among all RBs at Combine since 1999, courtesy of Mockdraftable.com):
40-yard dash: 4.57 seconds (47th percentile)
Vertical: 39 inches (90th)
Broad: 122 inches (76th)
3-cone: 6.97 seconds (63rd)
20-yard shuttle: 4.25 seconds (48th)
Benjamin has been producing since before he hit a college field. He finished his high school career in talent-rich Texas as the offensive player of the year for his class (5A) after rushing for 2,604 yards and 32 TDs as a senior. Benjamin initially committed to Iowa over offers from Baylor, Michigan, Texas and Utah -- before switching to Arizona State.
His Sun Devils career got off to a tough start, when a right ankle injury Benjamin suffered in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl required surgery. That kept him from taking the field for spring workouts, but impressed RBs coach John Simon by still learning the offense.
“He was here and learned all the signals, knew all the plays,” Simon told The Arizona Republic. “That gives him an advantage. It puts him maybe six months ahead of where he would be at this point.”
Benjamin did make it back to play in 10 games as a true freshman, but he didn’t get much work in a backfield that already featured upperclassmen Demario Richard and Kalen Ballage -- plus a 98-carry QB.
With both older RBs gone in 2018, however, Benjamin took on a school-record 300 carries. His 1,642 rushing yards ranked 5th nationally. The 4 players ahead of him included 2 now in the NFL (Darrell Henderson and Trayveon Williams), soon-to-be early pick Jonathan Taylor and Clemson’s Travis Etienne -- perhaps the top back in next year’s class after he decided to stick around.
Benjamin earned 3rd-team AP All-America and 1st-team All-Pac-12 honors in his starting debut. Beyond the traditional numbers ranked 3rd nationally in Pro Football Focus rushing yards after contact (behind only Henderson and Taylor) and 3rd in broken tackles (behind NFLers David Montgomery and Devin Singletary).
Benjamin topped 1,000 yards rushing again, bumped his receiving and garnered another 1st-team all-conference selection in 2019, but his productivity dipped. Arizona State did replace 3-year starting QB Manny Wilkins with freshman Jayden Daniels, though, and lose about 44 total yards per game in total offense.
Benjamin’s yards per carry sank, however, despite returning the O-line from his breakout sophomore campaign.
(Courtesy of WhatsOnDraftNFL)
Games watched: Washington 2018, UTSA 2018, Oregon 2019, Michigan State 2019, Arizona 2019
You’re probably going to like Benjamin if he winds up on the NFL team you root for. He’s simply a fun runner to watch. Benjamin runs with a jittery style, seeming like he never wants to stop moving.
Benjamin’s repertoire includes a particularly effective spin move that can leave defenders grasping.
His agility doesn’t reach elite status by NFL standards, but his cutting ability matches the above-average testing in the 3-cone drill.
(Imagine being 1 of those 2 colliding defenders in that last clip.)
Benjamin was an effective receiver throughout college, ranking 3rd on the team in catches in each of his 2 starting seasons and hauling in 82 of 88 “catchable” targets for his career, according to Pro Football Focus. However, none of the 5 games I watched included Benjamin splitting out in a WR spot or drawing a target in a non-RB route. That doesn’t mean he can’t do those things; just that he might not match the breadth of receiving experience that some of his classmates bring.
The few times I did see Benjamin in pass protection … it got ugly.
I’m not sure whether he just needs technique work or simply doesn’t like it, but it’s a weak point.
To be fair, NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein says Benjamin “knows where to be and makes an effort in pass pro,” so perhaps I just got a bad batch of samples. I did see him in the right places ... just not protecting much.
This aspect could matter more for Benjamin than for some other 2020 RB prospects because he’s built like a 3rd-down back -- in both size and skills.
As a runner, Benjamin also toes the line between good patience to set up blocks and searching to long for the “right” hole rather than taking what’s available. And although he runs tough, Benjamin doesn’t bring the power that will find him plowing through many tackles at the next level. (Thank goodness for that spin move.)
Benjamin clearly isn’t bound for a workhorse career at 207 pounds, but today’s NFL supports barely any horses. Benjamin does, however, present a package of skills that could allow him to produce in varied roles at schemes. He’d likely fare best in a spread offense that allows him to work in space. As the clips above show, Benjamin can be devastating when you get him into 1-on-1 (or even 1-on-2) showdowns with would-be tacklers.
Benjamin looks look a Round 3 -- perhaps early Round 4 -- back in the NFL Draft. His situation will factor heavily into projecting his upside.