As he heads into Week 10 following a highlight performance last week, Arizona Cardinals RB Eno Benjamin has become an interesting option for fantasy football managers to slide into starting rosters as the Cardinals take on the Panthers. But is this adulation premature for Benjamin, and does the potential upside outweigh the risk of starting an unproven running back?
Eno Benjamin is coming off a highlight performance in Week 9
Now, just because I say “highlight performance”, I don’t necessarily mean Benjamin lit up the box score. What I mean is, Benjamin had arguably the highlight play of the season — at least, up until Robert Hunt snatched that honor on Thursday night like he was in Ocean’s Eleven.
Benjamin played on a season-high 24% of Arizona’s offensive snaps following the ankle injury to Chase Edmonds earlier in the contest. In total, Benjamin rushed 9 times for 29 yards, which included a Derrick Henry-level truck stick for a touchdown. This has been a career season for the second-year player out of Arizona State after he was inactive all of 2019. Benjamin could be in line for a sizeable workload in Week 10 as the Cardinals are down a man in the backfield.
Chase Edmonds ruled out for Week 10 vs. Carolina
On Friday, Darren Urban of the Cardinals’ official site reported Edmonds had been ruled out of the team’s Week 10 matchup with the Panthers. Edmonds never seemed to be in consideration to start after the initial return timeline for his high ankle sprain was 3-4 weeks. There is still a chance the Cardinals place Edmonds on injured reserve, possibly creating a lasting role for Benjamin.
Edmonds has been Arizona’s most productive RB for the majority of the season. Still, James Conner has proven to be a reliable option, limiting Edmonds’ ceiling. Edmonds had played on 53% of the club’s offensive snaps, recording 76 carries for 430 yards with 1 touchdown. In the passing game, he’d caught 30 of 37 targets for 211 yards.
James Conner will remain the RB1 regardless of Benjamin’s production
Conner is playing at a level we have not seen since he took over the Steelers’ backfield while Le’Veon Bell was holding out. In seven of his nine games this year, Conner has seen double-digit carries.
But more importantly, he is finding the end zone at an incredible rate. Once the Cardinals are in the red zone, they make sure Conner is on the field.
Through nine weeks, Conner leads the NFL with 11 total touchdowns (10 rushing, 1 receiving), having carried the ball 115 times for 454 yards with 111 receiving yards on 10 receptions. Now, Edmonds’ injury places Conner somewhere around the top-12 RBs every week.
Arizona has arguably the most potent offense in the NFL and seems to consistently find themselves in the red zone, which is why Conner is producing at such a high rate. Even though the Cardinals don’t want to give him 26 opportunities per game as they did in Week 9, Conner will be the locked-in RB1 even if Benjamin decides to have a career day.
Eno Benjamin is a risky player to start in Week 10 for fantasy
It would be one thing if Benjamin were in line to be the de facto RB1 and in line for 15+ opportunities. But as long as Conner is on the field, the best Benjamin might see is a role similar to last week, in the 10-opportunity area. While Benjamin did have the most memorable play of the week, style points, unfortunately, don’t score in fantasy.
Ideally, we would see Benjamin coming in on passing downs, but if his previous usage is predictive, the Cardinals won’t opt to use him as a passing back. He has yet to see a target this season, and last week, Conner ran 21 routes to Benjamin’s 6.
Benjamin, at least while at Arizona State, did show promise. He finished his college tenure inside ASU’s top 10 in attempts (576), yards (2,867), touchdowns (31), and 100-yard games (15). There is always a chance Benjamin simply needs an opportunity and then would earn his role. Those who snagged him off waivers took advantage of a rare opportunity to land a player who could garner a notable amount of touches in a high-powered offense.
But I am not sure if Benjamin has the upside to win you a week. It’s more likely he finishes the fantasy week as a lower-end RB4 than as an RB2. If you have him or just added him, Benjamin is a worthwhile stash who might be more valuable to your team later down the road than in Week 10.