Where does Cedric Benson Fit?

The Bears continued their off-season project to revamp the NFL's worst offense by selecting Cedric Benson from the University of Texas with the fourth pick in the draft.

After finishing last in the league in multiple categories a year ago, the Bears look to the draft to provide the roster with offensive playmakers.

Benson has an impressive list of stats from four years of starting at Texas. He rushed for 19 touchdowns and 1,834 yards as a senior. The 5-foot-11, 222-pounder has been durable over the course of his Longhorns career despite carrying the ball more than 1,100 times.

"We are very excited about having Cedric Benson be a part of our team," said head coach Lovie Smith. "We did a lot of research and we watched a lot of film. You can't argue with the numbers, Cedric has put up over the last four years, he's been a dominant running back every year, he has played the game for a long time. We looked at all the running backs in the draft and believed that we were unanimous with the running back we wanted. We are extremely excited for him to be a part of what we are doing offensively."

So if Ronnie Brown was still on the board when the Bears were on the clock, the Bears still would have chose Benson because Smith and company see him as a difference maker despite the fact that he lacks blazing speed.

"As I look at what Cedric Benson has been able to do carrying the football, I would definitely say that he is a game-breaker," Smith said. "As you go back with what he has been able to do from his freshman year on, and the University of Texas, that is one of the big boys. He's played against top competition throughout his career and has really done well against it. I think the great running backs have instincts. They just know how to make the cuts. As you study him more and more, you will like exactly what he has been able to do."

Since Smith was hired in January of 2004 the offensive philosophy has changed. Thomas Jones was thought to be the premiere running back in former offensive coordinator Terry Shea's system focused on the tailback catching the ball out of the backfield.

With the trade of Marty Booker, David Terrell was looked at to be the No. 1 receiver.

Since the end of the season, Shea was fired and replaced by Ron Turner, Terrell was released, running back Anthony Thomas was not re-signed wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad inked a $30 million deal and the final piece of the puzzle could be Benson.

The question is how will the carries be distributed between Thomas Jones and Benson.

"Thomas (Jones) is our starting tailback as we talk right now," Smith said. "I always said that I wanted to have a couple of good running backs. We are trying to improve our football team right now on the offensive side of the ball. We are bringing in new players. Anyone that started in the past will have competition as you bring in new players. It doesn't necessarily change what happened with Thomas (Jones). We have another good running back added to the fold."

While Jones may start the season as the atop the depth chart of tailback, Benson will likely have an opportunity to get his fair share of carries and eventually assume a starting role.

Jones has never been able to play 16 games in a season. Last year a toe injury limited him to one carry in a three-game stretch. Benson offers an insurance policy for Jones and the Bears hope he can develop into a long- term solution.

"I think if you have two good running backs, they compliment each other, it doesn't really matter exactly what they do," Smith said. "As we look, though, to evaluate Cedric (Benson), with the fourth pick you are trying to get a complete running back. So we are really looking at him as a complete running back more so than looking at him to compliment someone else."

The Bears are counting on Benson to be a key piece of their offensive revival. The skill position pick is just the third for General Manager's Jerry Angelo's on the first day of the draft.

The defense is already on the right path, the Bears seem to feel a healthy Rex Grossman and the additions of Muhammad and Benson will be enough to regain offensive respectability.

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