By Charles Robinson,
March 23, 2005
In a scene that looks eerily similar to the swoon by Kevin Jones last season, Texas' Cedric Benson suffered through one of this offseason's most damaging predraft workouts Wednesday.
Despite working out in the familiar surroundings of the Longhorns' practice field, Benson posted 40-yard dashes in the 4.6- to 4.65-second range and struggled during pass-catching drills.
It's clearly a stumble for a player who chose not to work out at the scouting combine, then sat idly as Auburn running backs Ronnie Brown and Carnell Williams posted superb workouts. Benson was expected to offer something in the 4.45 to 4.5 range.
"It was rough, but he plays better than he looked," said a scout who watched Benson
, along with "60 to 70" other team representatives. "Nobody came here expecting to be blown away, but it wasn't a good day for him.
One comparison the scout drew was last year's performance by Jones, the former Virginia Tech running back who was expected to run around a 4.4 in the 40. Jones surprised everyone by running around 4.6, and his stock dropped dramatically.
Originally thought to be drafted between 15th and 20th overall, Jones slid all the way to Detroit at No. 30 behind Oregon State's Steven Jackson and Michigan's Chris Perry. He was the only one of that threesome to rush for 1,000 yards as a rookie, finishing with 1,133.
"There's a little bit of a difference because (Jones) was expected to be really fast, and Cedric Benson is clearly a power back," the scout said. "You can't erase what he did in college in one bad day, but of course it is going to be a factor."
It's just the latest bump for Benson in what has been a rocky journey toward the draft. He skipped the combine workouts, which wouldn't have looked bad if Brown and Williams (also considered top selections) hadn't participated. And while Benson seemed to have done well in team interviews – addressing questions about some off-field legal troubles – teams were still anxious to see his workout. Clearly, if he wanted to catch Brown as the No. 1 running back in the draft, he needed a sub-4.5 time in the 40 and show he could catch the football.
Now he's going to have to contemplate possibly running or working out one more time, in hopes of staging a last-minute boost in his value. Not that it would change how teams are going to look at his most recent performance. Bears general manager Jerry Angelo, who was attending the owners' meeting in Kapalua, Hawaii on Wednesday, said this latest performance should be a fair enough indication of the 5-foot-10, 225-pound Benson's true numbers.
"When somebody opts to work at their place, that's what they are," Angelo said. "He's not going to run a month from now, a week from now, and run much better. I've seen it enough times now. There are guys that run at the combine who run slow, and then they work out at their place and they run a lot better. I've never seen a guy that ran at his place, and then ran a month later and ran fast.
"That's what his time is. That's what his speed is. That's what he is. You could rationalize the combine time sometimes – you know, with the travel, that type of thing, and think, yeah, he might run faster on his home turf. Well, when a guy runs on his home turf, that is his time."
As for how it will effect Benson's stock?
"Each team will just have to assess it," Angelo said.