Mining for 2011 Fantasy Football Hidden Gems: Bernard Scott

July 12 12:40pm
Josh Shepardson

After three seasons of failing to live up to his first round draft status in Chicago, and a modest debut with the Cincinnati Bengals in 2008, Cedric Benson had a career year in 2009 rushing for 1251 yards in 13 games (good for 96.2 yards-per-game and 4.2 yards per carry).  He was a true bell cow that season, running north-and-south and bruising would be tacklers.  Unfortunately for him, that punishing running style seemed to catch up to him last year as he reverted back into the underwhelming Benson of season’s past, just on a high volume.  He once again surpassed the not-so-magical thousand yard plateau piling up 1111 yards on the ground in 2010.  The biggest difference between the two seasons was that he carried the ball 20 more times while coming up 140 yards short of his 2009 campaign, bringing his yards-per-carry down to 3.5, the exact same rate of his debut season with the Bengals and lower than his career mark.  Think back to the level of excitement that came with drafting Benson prior to last season.  You say you don’t remember a level of excitement?  Nor do I.

Enter Bernard Scott as potential heir to the thrown of top running back for the always exciting Bengals.  Okay, so perhaps exciting isn’t the best adjective to describe a franchise not so affectionately referred to as the Bungles by many.  Regardless, as any experienced fantasy gamer knows, team success isn’t required for individual success in the make believe game we love so dearly.

Largely an unknown as a sixth round draft choice in 2009 out of FCS school Abilene Christian, Scott has served as a backup to Benson each of his first two seasons in the National Football League showcasing flashes of brilliance.  One of those came in a week-11 start his rookie season against the Oakland Raiders in which he rushed for 119 yards on 21 carries.  Coming so late in the season, that performance helped Scott creep onto some sleeper lists prior to drafts last year.  One year later, after a quiet season that included zero games of rushing for more than 50 yards, and Scott is being drafted on average around pick 103 according to Mock Draft Central.

The biggest problem for Scott thus far in his career is his penchant for getting dinged up.  When Marvin Lewis was asked point blank if he could envision Scott as a feature back in February, he voiced concerns about his maturity, both physically and mentally.  Should he take the necessary steps forward, he owns the unique distinction of being a low-risk pick with fairly high-upside.  In his time at Abilene Christian, Scott was utilized in the passing game a healthy amount, indicating he may have some upside as a pass catcher that he’s yet to showcase (and that Benson entirely lacks).  That fact shouldn’t be lost on those playing in point-per-reception leagues, as it may allow him the opportunity to be a third-down back with flex starter value in deep leagues right out of the gate, with the obvious upside of full-fledged feature back status. Toss in that Carson Palmer appears to be true to his word in saying he’d rather retire than play in Cincinnati any longer , and the Bengals will be turning to a first time starter.  Whether that first time starter is Carson’s younger brother Jordan Palmer, or more likely rookie Andy Dalton, that’s a recipe for checkdowns to safety valves such as running backs out of the backfield.

Benson is a free agent whenever the lockout comes to a close, and has indicated he’d like to return to Cincinnati, something that would likely be appealing to the Bengals as well given his familiarity with the organization and teammates, and his experience as a number one running back.  Even if he is brought back with the intention of being leaned on as the starter, there is no guarantee his performance will warrant retaining the job.  Also considering the short shelf life of running backs, and his punishing style, staying healthy is no lock either.  Add it all up, and Scott has a chance to make waves in 2011.

Josh Shepardson also writes for both the Fantasy Baseball Cafe and Fantasy Football Cafe as well as The Hardball Times.  You can find Josh here on Twitter if you too enjoy communicating in 140 characters or less.

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