While I don't expect a player to come out of the woodwork every year like Tiki did last season -- but I think that there's a player who has that type of potential that I have heard very little about throughout the cafe.
Ladies and gentlemen -- let me introduce you again to Mr. Michael Bennett. I know that with that name comes an immediate aftertaste of injury potential, but let's look at all sides of this before we start casting stones.
Heading into last season, many fantasy owners were drooling over Bennett. While Onterrio Smith was there to vulture some carries, Bennett was at the time the undisputed top option in Minnesota. However, his season came crashing down due to injury.
This year, Bennett can be had in most drafts in the middle rounds -- and could be the key component for people looking for a second running back after bucking earlier draft round trends by taking a Randy Moss, Peyton Manning or other non-RB early. My point here is that Bennett's value is so low, it's pretty much a tried and true fact that anyone can have him as a second RB -- depending on when you're willing to jump at him.
We all know that Bennett isn't the largest RB in the league. He heads into training camp at 5-foot-9 and 209 pounds. (Interestingly, Tiki Barber is currently 5-foot-10 and 200 pounds.) Also, anyone that knows anything about Michael Bennett knows that he's one of the quickest players in the league right now.
Another factor to consider is Onterrio Smith's suspension. This means that the road is totally open for Bennett to take the reins. Yes, Mewelde Moore will get his share of carries (and could be pretty valuable himself if Bennett does go down) -- and Moe Williams may sniper a few goalline carries -- but Bennett is the best suited to catch balls out of the backfield -- something that Culpepper will be doing more with Moss out of town.
Minnesota's schedule is also a major factor in my views on Bennett this season. The squad plays Tampa Bay, Cincinnati, New Orleans, Atlanta, bye, Chicago, Green Bay, Carolina, Detroit, NY Giants, Green Bay, Cleveland, Detroit, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Chicago. Yes, there are a few challenges on there, but overall it's not that challenging of a schedule.
Yet another factor to consider is Minnesota's progress on defense. For once, the Vikings may not need to air out the ball every game in a shootout to keep up. The Viking defense should do well against conference foes and other teams faced. This will allow the team to keep the ball on the ground more than ever -- which translates into better stats for Bennett.
The final key to Bennett's success is that he's entering a contract season. It's been proven over and over that players in contract seasons perform well above their normal rate.
Yes, Bennett may be considered an injury threat -- but he also could just as well play for most of the season. Even Fragile Freddy (Taylor) had a fully healthy season not too long ago. I think that as long as Bennett stays healthy (which miraculously could happen for someone looking to improve his contract), he will be a VERY solid second RB and a great value where he's going in most drafts.
I could hop on the Bennett train. He seems to produce when healthy and will undoubtedly be a good value. Another guy I like is TJ Duckett. He already is posting good TD numbers, so you will get some production out of him, but with Dunn turning 30 (a superstition I have about RB's, 30 is a bad year to turn, see Stephen Davis and Marshall Faulk) he could see an increased workload. It isn't far-fetched to see Dunn going down, either....
the case could be made that Bennett could be a dominant player in '05..
he's similar to Robert Smith in that he's fast and very injury prone..but even Smith pulled it together for one great year. Like Bennet, coincidentally, his contract was due up at the end of the year..he led the league in rushing I believe( 2000)..then promptly retired despite having a huge contract offer awaiting..Bennett's contract is due up at the end of the year, so he'll be looking to put together a Por Bowl effort..the Vikings possess one of the league's best offensive lines..Jim Kleinsasser is back..they lack the big play ability at the WR spot and even Mike Tice has acknowledged that his team would like to turn its focus to the running game..
they have to turn to the running game. Duante Culpepper has lost the best weapon in the game, Randy Moss, and the new offensive coordinator wants to run much more than in previous years...
Bennett carries alot of risk, but so does Priest Holmes ( 32 in Oct., 2 major injuries have ended EACH of the past two seasons for him), Shaun Alexander ( will he or won't he sign with Seattle?), Edgerrin James ( is slower than he used to be, and only scored 9 times in the NFL's best-ever offense in 2004), Tatum Bell ( been hurt each of the past 4 seasons, dating back to Oklahoma State days)..
A major hurdle for Bennett is that Moe Williams will hawk most goal line carries, and Mewelde Moore will be a 3rd down back..and, Ciatrick Fason lies in wait on the sidelines..
I'd figure Bennett for about 1,400 yards..6-8 rushing tds...there are too many RB mouths to feed in Minnesota to think he'll get more than 275 carries...
I'm not high on Bennett, but I'll take him as my second or third back if he's the best option left and I have a need to fill at RB. Otherwise though, I don't have much faith invested in him
I agree! very risky pick, for sure! but even if he gets just 250 carries, he'll still nail down 1,250 yards rushing..his avg, when healthy, is 5 yards per carry..he's said to be in terrific shape, and fast as lightning right now..but he's always been fast as lightning! lol...
but the fact that his contract is up at the end of the year means he could very well be worth the risk, as he tries to perform well to rake in a huge long-term deal for 2006 and beyond, either in Minnesota or elsewhere..
but I'm not taking him ahead of Portis, KJ, JJ, Jamal, Lt2, Dillon,Rudi, etc..you're right, he's a great #2 or #3 RB..not a top tier guy..
Warpigs wrote:Minnesota's schedule is also a major factor in my views on Bennett this season. The squad plays Tampa Bay, Cincinnati, New Orleans, Atlanta, bye, Chicago, Green Bay, Carolina, Detroit, NY Giants, Green Bay, Cleveland, Detroit, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Chicago. Yes, there are a few challenges on there, but overall it's not that challenging of a schedule.
I dont think MIN has a very favorable schedule at all - in fact I see it as being quite harsh. The only favorable matchups I see are against GB, CLE, and STL. I think the strength of schedule is a pretty large negative when looking at MIN player - that goes for most players in the NFC North. MIN, CHI, and DET all got substatially better on DEF this offseason - either through players returning from injury or new additions - plus they face the AFC North as well - one of the toughest defensive divisions in the NFL(BAL, PIT, CIN, CLE).
Warpigs wrote:Yet another factor to consider is Minnesota's progress on defense. For once, the Vikings may not need to air out the ball every game in a shootout to keep up. The Viking defense should do well against conference foes and other teams faced. This will allow the team to keep the ball on the ground more than ever -- which translates into better stats for Bennett.
I agree they will run the ball more - but due to the loss of Moss, I also see substantially less room to run for MIN. More touches with a lower YPC = ? we'll see. Just be careful suggesting because they should run more means they will get more total rushing yds - that isnt necessarily true.
Warpigs wrote:The final key to Bennett's success is that he's entering a contract season. It's been proven over and over that players in contract seasons perform well above their normal rate.
Now this I cannot agree with even a little bit. Contract yr theory is a myth. For every player you can point to having a great contract yr, there are as many if not more that do not. I have read a number of articles debunking this myth.
I like Bennett as a #4 RB right now - with limited upside. The fact that he will have his TDs hawked is probably my biggest knock against him. Any RB that loses goalline carries loses a ton of value in my opinion. Add in his injury history, and what you get is a #4 RB option.