Two of my three intriguing running back prospects for the 2020 Draft (Anthony McFarland, Eno Benjamin) got “the call” on Saturday. Sewo Olonilua did not.
Let’s see where all three will be heading to when practice resumes in preparation for next season.
Anthony McFarland Jnr, Pittsburgh Steelers
Concerns over McFarland’s size proved unfounded, and the 4th Round is the right time to take him. The Maryland product is undersized but has impressive speed. He posted a 4.44 time in the 40 yard dash at the Combine. He’s the type of back that can take it to the house with every snap he takes.
Struggles with injuries have hampered his progress at college, but there is plenty of juice left in the tank. He split reps at Maryland, which will work in his favour should he keep healthy in the NFL.
The Steelers need to bolster their running back room. It seemed as though James Conner was the long term replacement for Le’Veon Bell in 2018, but injuries have plagued him. Some questions over his durability remain going into next year.
McFarland Jnr is used to a committee system. Limiting James Conner’s touches should get the best out of their RB1. Injuries hampered the Steelers running backs, with none rushing for more than 500 yards in 2019. Benny Snell Jnr performed well, whereas Conner and Jaylen Samuels disappointed. Anthony McFarland Jnr will feel confident that he can make an impact in Pennsylvania in 2020 and beyond.
Eno Benjamin, Arizona Cardinals
Benjamin fell further than most had expected. Few people expected him to fall into Round 7 of the 2020 Draft. I had him mocked as a late Day 2 prospect. In the end, that’s where the Arizona Cardinals picked him up.
Teams may have been concerned that Benjamin had seen too many carries at college level. Last season, he rushed for over 1,000 yards and caught 40 passes at Arizona State. Concerns over the amount of tread left on his tyres might be the cause of his slide into the 7th Round.
It seems as though the Cardinals have got good value with this pick. For now, he will most likely be used as a backup. Still only 21, Benjamin has the time and potential to become a contributor. In his last two years, he has rushed for more than 2,500 yards and 26 touchdowns. He also chipped in with 4 receiving touchdowns in that time.
Benjamin joins an Arizona Cardinals side in need of support in the running back department. Kenyan Drake will get most snaps in 2019, but Benjamin will hope to contribute and prove his worth. Arizona picked up two UDFA rookies once the 2020 Draft had ended. It looks like he will have to fight for his spot on the roster.
Sewo Olonilua, 2020 Draft UDFA (Dallas Cowboys)
Of my intriguing prospects, Olonilua was the only player to go undrafted. He was immediately picked up by the Dallas Cowboys as an UDFA once the 2020 Draft had concluded.
Olonilua will be able to fight for a roster spot in his home state of Texas. Dallas didn’t address the running back position with their picks, and so swept up on the most promising players available.
Olonilua’s size (6’3″, 230 lbs) and slower 40 yard dash time (4.66 seconds) may have hurt his Draft stock. He missed half the season in 2019 for a drug possession charge. Questions about his suitability to the modern day NFL led to teams passing on him on Day 3.
Dallas may utilise Olonilua as a full back in pre-season. He has a lot of work to do to make it in the league. He will have a chip on his shoulder and a point to prove, but the odds are stacked against him. They were similarly stacked against Raheem Mostert after he went undrafted in 2015. He went on to run a touchdown in Superbowl LIV just two months ago.
Tom Scott @downthemannyrd