Benson could be a fantasy bargain

Updated: August 31, 2011, 3:14 PM ET
By Eric Karabell

Perhaps jailed Cincinnati Bengals running back Cedric Benson is not someone you would choose to dine, vacation or even have a chat with. I get that. His exploits off the field have been well-chronicled, and late Tuesday night, with a 20-day prison sentence planned for October's bye week pending, he checked himself into a Texas jail for what he hopes is only a week. You know, it's kinda like heading to a hotel, but the free breakfast provided is a bit different.

Anyway, this is an odd story, and I'm here to play devil's advocate and remind people that while Mr. Benson is not practicing with his Bengals teammates, and his availability for Week 1 against the Cleveland Browns remains somewhat problematic, he was a top-20 fantasy running back (16th actually) a season ago. He was also fifth in the league in rushing attempts. He's not a star, but he's not as bad as you think. I mean, on the field.

I think most fantasy owners are wise enough to see this situation for what it is, but then again, some clearly aren't. If people looked past the jail hiccup and the fact that the Bengals are likely to be awful this season, then Benson wouldn't be the No. 27 running back selected on average in ESPN live drafts. Benson remains the team's starting running back. The team wasn't good last season, either. The fantasy season lasts longer than September, so even if he misses a week or so -- and I don't think he will -- there's nice value here. Benson is going to be busy. And hey, he's not likely to pull a hammy on the practice field in the next week, so he's got that going for him.