The Fantasy Football Implications of Trey Benson as an Arizona Cardinal

Apr 30, 2024
The Fantasy Football Implications of Trey Benson as an Arizona Cardinal

The Arizona Cardinals' decision to select RB Trey Benson with the 66th pick of the 2024 NFL Draft, the second running back off the board, has significant implications for fantasy football. While the early third-round capital might not immediately boost his fantasy prospects, it's important to note that the running back position was de-valued this year. Moreover, the Cardinals' offense, which surprisingly held its ground last season, has been further fortified with the addition of a wide receiver, guard, tight end, and Benson by pick No. 90.

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Trey Benson’s Prospect Profile

Following a short stint with the Oregon Ducks (six carries, major knee injury from 2020-2021), Trey Benson entered the transfer portal and played two seasons at Florida State as a starter. He would show no ill effects from the ACL injury during his time as a Seminole, and it could be argued that he has less wear and tear than other backs from this class because of his missed time.

Over those two years, he accrued 2,100+ total yards, thanks in large part to a huge amount of breakaway runs. According to PFF’s numbers, Benson ranked fourth among all draft-eligible running backs in breakaway percentage (53.9%), a metric that measures the rate at which a rush goes for 15+ yards.

Trey Benson as a Florida State Seminole, 2022-2023
Year Attempts Rushing Yards YPA Yards Created After Contact Targets Receptions Total TDs
2022 154 994 6.5 4.53 15 12 9
2023 156 905 5.8 3.53 24 20 15

Though Benson lost a touch of his efficiency from his first to second season in Tallahassee, he made up for it with a larger role in the passing game and a slightly better touchdown variance. After scoring only three times on 10 carries from inside the opponent’s five-yard line in 2022, he turned seven of those opportunities into five touchdowns in the following season.

As evidenced by his 9.76 RAS score, the areas where Benson needs to improve don’t have anything to do with his physical gifts. Benson ran a blazing 4.39 40-yard dash at 219 pounds, giving him the second-highest speed score in this draft class. This shines through in the aforementioned breakaway rate, as he was regularly seen blowing past second-level defenders and leaving defensive backs trailing behind him. He was a home run threat at college, and that should translate well to NFL fields.

Benson’s frame and contact balance make him more than just a speedy option, though. He has the ability to absorb contact and keep his feet moving, as evidenced by his yards created after contact (YCO/A), where he ranked third among this RB draft class in 2022 (4.53).

There are many positives to Benson’s game, and his major knee injury is now three-plus years in the rearview, but his lack of a bell-cow role in college is a reason to raise eyebrows. He averaged only 13.5 touches per game in 2023 and will likely be a part of a rotation at the next level, albeit one that could highlight his home run ability. Luckily, he may have landed in the perfect spot to highlight his size/speed combination, even if he’s not handling a huge workload.

How Trey Benson Fits With the Cardinals

The Arizona Cardinals have been throwing late-round (or UDFA) picks at the running back position for several years now, but none of them have stuck. Keaontay Ingram (sixth-round, ‘22), Emari Demercado (UDFA, ‘23), and Eno Benjamin (seventh-round, ‘20) are a few of the names the team has plugged in behind James Conner in the last few years, with each of them taking turns dropping back into waiver wires after brief stints on fantasy rosters.

Spending the 66th pick with an ascending offense is an entirely different story though. Benson figures to have a role in this offense from Week 1 and has the ability to spell Conner at any point of the game, at any area of the field. Conner isn’t necessarily known for his pass-catching prowess, but the team has eased him out of the third-down role as the tread on his tires has begun to fade. Last year, Conner ran the least amount of routes (201) since his injury-laden 2019 season with the Steelers and was tasked as a pass-blocker (51 snaps) at the lowest rate since that same ‘19 season.

As with many rookie running backs, Benson has some hiccups in the passing game, including some work to be done in pass protection, but the team will likely look to get him involved early, even if it’s just basic screen and swing passes to get the ball in his hands closer to the perimeter of the field.

In a football world with ever-increasing running backs by committees, a 1-2 punch from Conner and Benson isn’t something that should turn us off in Fantasyland.

Projecting the Cardinals Backfield in Fantasy Football

Barring some sort of injury bad luck, the majority of the depth chart (Emari Demercado, DeeJay Dallas, Michael Carter, Tony Jones) should have a very difficult time seeing the field in 2024, and half of those guys will be cut by the time the pre-season ends anyway.

That puts our focus on Conner and Benson, who make a great real-life pairing and one we should target if the price is right. Even if you think the rookie needs a year to develop into a true fantasy option, there’s no denying that a legitimate backup is going to affect Conner’s ceiling for 2023. With that said, the veteran certainly isn’t a stay-away; it’s just best to pick your spots.

Conner profiles as more of a high-end RB3 than the locked-in RB2 we’ve come to depend on during his Cardinals tenure.

As for Benson, the landing spot is definitely a good one, but it’s also better in Dynasty formats, as Conner is in the last year of his deal and might be out of the way by the 2025 season. The rookie should be part of season-long drafts, but we may need to exercise some patience and wait for the ever-present post-bye rookie bump that we have come to see as an annual occurrence.

Bottom Line

  • Trey Benson never had the gigantic output season that some of the other backs in this class have under their belt, but he exhibited an NFL-level size/speed combination through two years at Florida State.
  • The Cardinals have an ascending offense and added four rookies, including Benson, to that side of the ball before pick No. 90.
  • Benson and James Conner find themselves in a great 1-2 situation and should handle nearly 100% of the RB workload in 2024.
  • According to current Underdog best ball drafts, Benson is coming off the board as the RB28 (98.9 ADP). While I do think he will end up having a productive rookie season, I believe it may come in the back half of the year, as his path to immediate touches isn’t as clear as it would have been had he landed on a team like the Dallas Cowboys. If he falls into the RB4 range, we should start considering his upside behind a 29-year-old teammate.
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