By Simon Carroll

The College Football season is in full swing, and with one eye towards the 2020 NFL Draft Si takes a long hard look at Arizona State running back Eno Benjamin…

Running Back Disrespect

Eno Benjamin

Running back is as unforgiving a position as there is in any team sport. Brutal on the body, the average career length for a ball carrier in the NFL is just 2.57 years. And despite running the ball on more than 30% of all plays in 2018 (and catching some of the passes too), the average salary of a running back last year was actually less than that of a kicker. Some say it’s a position easily replaced. Some say it’s the position with the simplest transition from college to the NFL. Where has the love gone for the modern day running back?

There’s some good news. After almost a decade of running backs being devalued, we’re seeing some elite talents getting their due respect. Saquon Barkley, Melvin Gordon, Zeke Elliott and Todd Gurley were all taken in the first round – the latter two recently getting financially recompensed with lucrative second contracts in the last year. Guys like Alvin Kamara and Christian McCaffrey are seeing their offenses tailored around their diverse skillsets. NFL Teams such as The Eagles & Patriots hold five, maybe six RB’s who all offer something different and have roles to play each weekend.

Down in Tempe, Arizona they believe they have another running back worthy of first round recognition. Eno Benjamin returns for his junior year for Arizona State in 2019. The Texas native was highly recruited out of high school with TWENTY-EIGHT scholarship offers and chose the Sun Devils after briefly flirting with Iowa. As a sophomore Benjamin had over 1,900 yards from scrimmage as ASU confounded critics in Herm Edward’s first year as head coach. So is he first round worthy?

Let’s break down the tape:

The Measurables

Eno Benjamin

At 5’10” and 205lbs, Eno Benjamin is just about within the range that NFL scouts look for in a running back. To put it into context, these numbers are near enough identical to Christian McCaffrey when he came out of Stanford. Some teams considered McCaffrey too slight for the pro game and have been proved wrong so far in his short career, but I imagine this recent example will be forgotten once again when draft season rolls round in 2020. Numbers sometimes disguise the truth – the real question is does he pass the eye test? Benjamin by no means looks slight for his frame but where you might expect to see thick thighs he offers a more lean physique. Because of this his game tape will be scoured for durability and lower body strength. Lucky for you guys, I’ve done that for you…


Eno Benjamin

In an offense with mobile quarterback Manny Wilkins and stud receiver N’Keal Harry, Benjamin was the bread winner for Arizona State last year. After a freshman campaign with just 23 carries Herm Edwards put the ball in the hands of Eno in 2018 and was dutifully rewarded. 1,642 yards and 16 touchdowns on the ground was enough to place Benjamin fifth in the NCAA. He added another 263 yards and two scores through the air. Benjamin set a school record against Oregon State with 312 yards in one game. He had just one game with more than fifteen carries that he didn’t top 100 yards. And most impressively he showed up in the big games; 149 yards against Oregon, 175 against #15 Utah, and 185 at USC. The word productive doesn’t do Benjamin justice.  


It seems silly to say it, but ultimately a running back needs to run fast enough to escape a tackler. It’s not the only tool they require, but some backs like Chris ‘CJ2K’ Johnson made a living out of being the fastest man on the field. Having elite speed can mask a litany of other deficiencies.

Eno Benjamin does not possess elite speed, but he is quick. What is the difference I hear you say? Well in a straight line over forty yards, there will be many RB’s out there with a quicker time than Benjamin. But in short, confined areas where you need acceleration and a burst to fly between the tackles? Benjamin has that in spades. This clip shows two examples of him bursting through the line. The first is an off-tackle run with a pulling center that gives Benjamin the freedom to accelerate immediately. The second is an inside run where he finds the hole then turn on the jets to take it to the house:

I’ve really just thrown this next clip in for a bit of fun – who doesn’t like to see a hurdle right? But it’s after he lands that is impressive. Often when a ball carrier leaps over a tackler they get taken down relatively quickly afterwards as they can’t build up speed quick enough to get away. No such problem for Benjamin in this play – watch him ghost past three Kent State defenders to get the first down and tack on twenty yards:

Benjamin has somewhat of an all-round, complimentary game as we will discuss further on. But, as shown, this short-area quickness is the basis for his effective style of play.


How strong a runner Benjamin is will go some way to answering critics about his size. For a running back lower body strength is critical to success. You need to have that ability to fight through contact, keep the legs churning and earn the hard yards. The next clip is only a short one, Benjamin punching the ball in against Washington from the one yard line. But take note at how low his center of gravity is as he makes contact with the defender. Benjamin is fully aware he may have to run through someone to get to paydirt and is willing to do so. He wins the leverage battle which allows his legs to keep working and force it home:


Something you may have heard commentators mention before is Yards After Contact, or YAC. This goes hand in hand with power – a ball carrier able to keep moving once he’s been engaged by the opposition. Running backs such as Adrian Peterson have created Hall of Fame worthy resumes by being able to shrug off tackles and get more yards than they probably were entitled to. Benjamin has continually shown on film he is able to keep moving after contact. Here we have two examples of Benjamin maximising runs. First against Oregon State where he is clipped running through the line, keeps going and finishes in the end zone after contact. And second against Washington on a third and short with him looking for the contact himself. Here he uses his momentum and a spin move to ensure he makes the line to gain:

I wouldn’t particularly describe Benjamin as a physical runner, but he understands when there is a need to bring power to his game. He’s smart, plays situational football, and always seems to fall forward to end a run. His lower body strength should not be in question.


Not allowing the opposition to get their hands on you is an art form. It may sound obvious but if you don’t get touched, you won’t get tackled. Elusiveness and vision are critical aspects of modern day football. The Brandon Jacobs of the running back world (north-south, downhill runners) are dinosaurs in today’s NFL. You need to be able to see a play develop, make an educated decision and choose the right hole. In order to do this running backs have developed an array of moves to change direction and/or avoid a tackle.

Eno Benjamin possesses one of the most devastating jump cuts in college football. The ease at which he bounces the ball out to the edge when at the line of scrimmage defies logic. Here are just three examples of how his jump cut ability leads to big runs for his team:

Benjamin shows a trait here that is extremely valuable in the pro game. The only concern I have is his propensity to use it when he shouldn’t. Vision goes hand in hand with elusiveness, and often Benjamin has bounced the ball outside when there was a perfectly good lane up the middle to take instead. It’s a little like a mobile Quarterback who can’t help but take off whenever he hears footsteps. Continuing to overuse the jump cut will diminsh the effectiveness of it – Benjamin will be aware he has to be more selective in it’s usage.

When he does stay between the tackles, Benjamin shows the vision needed to predict where the linebackers will be. This next clip shows him plant his right foot, angle to the left as he hits the line of scrimmage and avoid the first tackle:

Pinball Wizard

Eno Benjamin has other tools to his game. Watch him marry his underrated power with an ability to bounce off defenders down the field. This pinball style of running is very much in vogue in the NFL right now. Kareem Hunt is an example of a guy who can ricochet off defenders on big runs:

NFL stars like Le’Veon Bell have highlighted patience as a valuable asset for elusiveness. Here Benjamin slows down his run, hides behind his blockers, lets the play develop and comfortably gets the first down:

As mentioned earlier, Benjamin has a unique blend of power, quickness, elusiveness and vision that makes his game versatile and unpredictable. He may not be elite in any of the categories above, but his all-round game should translate well at the next level.


Being a modern day running back isn’t just about toting the rock. In order to make sure you are on the field for all three downs you need to be able to offer more to the offense. An obvious example of this is being proficient in the passing game. We’ve mentioned Christian McCaffrey before in this article – he’s the perfect example of versatility at running back. He’s almost as dangerous through the air as he is on the ground.

Just one look at the stats tells you that Eno Benjamin isn’t the second coming of CMC. 235 yards off 35 catches isn’t a poor return in a passing game that featured N’Keal Harry and Brandon Aiyuk heavily, but Benjamin will want to show he has the tools to be a factor through the air. The good news is that his tape shows he can be. Benjamin, when not carrying the ball, is very interesting to watch. He escapes out of the backfield with a nice subtlety that sees him open more often than not. Sometimes he runs out into the flat just to pull a defender away. And when his QB did deign to throw the ball his direction, I couldn’t find one example of Benjamin dropping it.

I’ve cobbled together four catches from Benjamin from last year – two per video. Note the way he disguises his routes and shows sure hands for the catch:

On all but one of those catches Benjamin makes decent yardage, and I would argue the third pass was a poor one for him to haul in. For me this is the biggest area of growth we are likely to see from him in his junior year. Through just two games he’s made almost half of the yardage from the whole of last season and has already matched his receiving TD total of two. I’m excited to see him add another string to his bow.

The Extras

One area where Benjamin needs to improve is pass blocking. Could this be where his 205lb frame lets him down? Let’s face it, not many running backs of his size are asked to block much in the NFL. And whilst Benjamin shows a willingness to protect his quarterback, he’ll need to do a better job than he did against UTEP on back to back plays:

One final thing to note – Benjamin is as safe a ball carrier as anyone in college football. Not one fumble in his college career so far – that’s 426 touches as of the time this article is published. Despite me adding this just as a footnote, it’s not something taken for granted by the NFL. Many top running backs have seen their careers plagued by a lack of ball security. Benjamin’s college career suggests he won’t have that problem at the next level.

Far Too Early Prediction

The 2020 NFL Draft could feature a number of elite level running backs. Clemson’s Travis Etienne, Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor and D’Andre Swift (great RB name) of Georgia are all talents that have the potential to see themselves taken in the first round. Whether they do or not is up for debate – there is still the lingering notion that you can find running back value further down the draft, and Eno Benjamin might be a case in point. The Chicago Bears had David Montgomery fall to them in the third round last year, and I would argue he and Benjamin have a very similar skillset.

His jack of all trades, master of none game may mean a similar fate befalls Benjamin. That’s no slight on him at all – I think he’s a day two pick and whichever team gets the Sun Devil are likely to have one of the many running backs who outplay their draft position. In terms of fit, I would be intrigued to see him land on a team like The Chargers. Melvin Gordon is likely to be gone at the end of this season and Benjamin would compliment Austin Ekeler & Justin Jackson nicely – two backs who play better when they’re used selectively. Working under Anthony Lynn in that zone blocking scheme would give him time behind the line of scrimmage and maximise his skillset. Wherever he ends up his work ethic and playmaking ability will impress his coaches. It will be exciting to see him suit up on Sundays.

Mock Draft

Simon Carroll


previously the founder of nfl draft uk, simon has been covering college football and the nfl draft since 2009. based in manchester, simon is also co-creator & weekly guest of the collapsing pocket podcast.