Cedric Benson is taking one for the (fantasy football) team. (AP/AP)

Coming off back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, Benson turned in a dreadful 3.5 yards per carry average last season and the Bengals offense should really struggle with a rookie quarterback in 2011. He’s not getting much love from the experts, which shouldn’t come as a surprise for a guy with a 3.7 yards per carry average for his career.

ESPN.com, NFL.com and Yahoo! have Benson ranked 25th, 27th and 26th, respectively. That seems about right for a guy who has never flashed real signs of game-breaking ability but also happens to be one of the few clear-cut No. 1 backs in the league without much competition behind him.

But now Benson is rewarding those who put their faith in him this season.

Rather than wait until Cincinnati’s bye week in Week 7 to begin serving his 20-day jail sentence for a pair of misdemeanor assault cases, Ced is already behind bars with an eye on an early release for time served. So Benson has a shot at being back in time to start in Week 1.

The 28-year-old was arrested for allegedly punching a bar employee in Austin — the home of his alma mater — to which he pleaded no contest but was not punished. Last month, Benson allegedly punched a former roommate in the same city and one again pleaded no contest to an assault charge. That charge will be dismissed if he performs 30 hours of community service and pays an unknown sum to the victim.

Benson’s production in 2009 played a key role in the Bengals’ run to the AFC North title, but Cincinnati came back down to Earth last season and finished 4-12.

The important take-away for fantasy owners is Benson has your interests at heart. Even if he’s not all that good.