After waiting to be drafted, Eno Benjamin ready to suit up for Cardinals
While it took longer than expected for Eno Benjamin to receive the call that he had been drafted, the former Arizona State Sun Devil running back may have found the perfect landing spot.
Projected as a potential Day 2 pick by some, Benjamin was drafted on Day 3 of the NFL Draft in the seventh round (222nd overall) by the Arizona Cardinals.
“It wasn’t panning out the way we were expecting it to, but at the end of the day, I knew all I needed was one shot, one opportunity,” Benjamin said in a conference call.
After the Carolina Panthers drafted CB Stantley Thomas-Oliver, the Arizona Cardinals were on the clock and Benjamin finally got that call.
“I just grabbed my phone and felt my phone vibrating. I knew from there the 602 number was Arizona and it gave me a good feeling right off the bat,” Benjamin recalled.
Being drafted by the team that plays only 26 miles away from his old collegiate stadium is a benefit for Benjamin, both for knowledge and comfort.
“It’s just that much of an easier transition for me being able to go and move right down the road from where I played in college,” Benjamin said.
“I’ve seen what’s going on with the Cardinals as far as Coach Kliff Kingsbury and the Kyler (Murray) pieces. I’ve been watching the offense and seeing how it goes. I think I’d fit right in and I’m very excited to be a part of this team,” he added.
The former Sun Devil has a lot more in common with the Cardinals than just playing college ball in the same area.
Kingsbury, a former Texas Tech head coach, recruited Benjamin. That prior relationship helped with less in-person meetings due to the coronavirus outbreak.
“A lot of players weren’t able to go out there and meet coaches, sit down with them,” Benjamin said.
“So I think Coach Kliff Kingsbury was able to lean on that prior relationship that we had … and trust that,” he added.
Kingsbury said he followed Benjamin’s success in Tempe, where he rushed for 2,867 yards with 27 touchdowns in 34 games as a Sun Devil.
“He’s very durable, very productive, tough runner,” Kingsbury said.
In addition to knowing the coach, Benjamin also grew up in the same area as the Cardinals’ starting quarterback.
“Kyler (Murray) is one of those guys that I have a pretty good relationship with,” Benjamin said. “Growing up kind of in the same area of Texas I’ve been able to see him play, we talk every now and then when we see each other.”
Along with the personal and geographic benefits of being drafted by the Cardinals, he saw the team as an opportunity to play before the draft took place.
“I visited them multiple times throughout the combine process, so I knew that it was a very legit option,” Benjamin said.
“There were a few teams as far as knowing the fit and knowing where they stand as far as needing a running back that we were looking at and the Arizona Cardinals were one of them,” he added.
Benjamin joins a depth chart that features Kenyan Drake, Chase Edmonds and former Arizona State running back D.J. Foster.
David Johnson, last season’s featured back at the start of the season for the Cardinals, was traded to the Houston Texans in the offseason for wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins after his role with the team diminished.
Benjamin said he is looking to contribute to the team’s success right off the bat since the team runs a lot of spread offense, something he’s felt comfortable doing in college and high school.
Kingsbury, meanwhile, said the team wanted to bring in someone to learn from Drake and Edmonds and be a productive part of the team.
“We think Eno (Benjamin) fills that need,” Kingsbury said.
The learning already started before the draft, as Benjamin said he had been running routes with Edmonds during the offseason.
Even though Benjamin’s draft position wasn’t as high as he and others thought it was going to be, he says he can’t be mad at other teams.
“I felt like teams thought they had some more important people they needed to pick up in front of me and that’s what they did,” Benjamin said.
“I’m forever grateful that I got the opportunity to get drafted and play the sport that I love once again,” he added.