There is no better way to introduce Chris "Beanie" Wells that to simply say, watch this video and try and tackle that stiff arm.
Since an introduction can't be that simple we went to one of the guys who would know Beanie's game better than anyone, Sam, the lead blogger at one of SBN's newest sites We Will Always Have Tempe. Here's what Sam had to say about Wells' overall game, his perceived weaknesses and where he went in relation to the other top backs in the draft:
The only knock on Beanie Wells that has any staying power after a prolonged period of watching and studying his play is his durability. His injury issues are real, and they're the biggest reason why he dropped. Other slights against him, relating to his toughness or his "heart" - whatever that means - are basically BS and bad analysis. Wells has had injury trouble his entire career at Ohio State. His sophomore year, he played through the pain en route to the most productive season ever for a sophomore Ohio State running back. His junior year, the injury resurfaced in the opener against Youngstown State, and clearly bothered him the rest of the year. Nevertheless, Beanie Wells has never been one to shy away from hits; I'm not sure where that criticism comes from. He is not a delicate runner; he will run right through almost any defender that gets in his way, and he has the toughness to be a 25-carry back in the NFL. Of course, in the Cardinal's prolific offense, he won't have to be that guy, which means he may be even more effective with the extra rest. In his junior season, Wells did more running out of the shotgun than he had at any prior point in his football career and displayed a surprising aptitude for it for a big back. I think people underestimate his versatility; he has both the strength and tenacity to wear down opposing defenses in a power game, but he has the speed and quickness to burn even the best defenses. The guy has all the heart and all the tools to succeed, and he's got roughly the same amount of problems with injuries as Adrian Peterson did coming into the league.
Wells' lack of receptions is mostly a product of the Ohio State system. Jim Tressel believes you pass it to your receivers, and everyone else blocks for the quarterback. Running backs, fullbacks, and TEs routinely get no love in the Ohio State passing game, and Beanie Wells was no exception. For that fact, I would also question his ability to be a consistent receiver, but only because I never got the chance to see him do it consistently.
If I were an NFL GM and I had to invest millions of dollars into the kid, I would have taken him second after Donald Brown. Brown has a ridiculous amount of durability and upside, but I think Wells is a far superior back to Knowshon Moreno. No, that isn't lingering bitterness toward the SEC talking; I really think Wells will be a more productive pro, providing again that he stays healthy.
That's certainly some encouraging news from a guy who has followed his every move over the past several seasons. So why did Wells end up as the third back taken and why was he avaliable when the Cardinals stepped to the podium?
First, I think we can all agree on Wells' strengths as a down hill runner with very good speed for his size, a killer stiff arm and a workhorse back capable of carrying an offense. With all of that being said, let's take a look at some of the the things that concern scouts about his game:
- Mocking the Draft: Has had lingering injury issues during his entire career which is troublesome. Lacks breakaway speed and will be caught from behind. Mostly ineffective as a receiver, which makes his hands questionable. Also, as a result of his lack of receiving, he doesn't run the best of routes. Needs to improve as a pass blocker. Doesn't do the best job reading where the blitz is coming from.
- Draft Countdown: Often hampered by minor nagging injuries...Just average timed speed...Limited experience as a receiver...Doesn't have great hands or run good routes...Will struggle to get outside and turn the corner...Not overly elusive...Might be too tall and runs high at times...Adequate blocker but could show better effort...Toughness has been questioned.
- Walter Football: Very questionable hands out of the backfield ... Doesn't hit the hole very hard and running lanes do close on him sometimes because of this ... Doesn't put much effort into pass protection and lacks awareness in this area.
- War Room Report: Not as versatile as many other backs are...essentially limited to a two-down RB due to his lack of receiving skills...lack of explosion is a concern regarding his pro potential...injuries hampered him at times...a heavy workload for several seasons in college may have put some additional wear on those tires...going to need to work on his blocking abilities...some questions about his work ethic and desire to play the game...tries to go around blockers instead of taking them on...
- NFL.com: Primary concern - and the only one that will keep him from being a top 10 pick - is Wells' struggles with durability. Fought nagging injuries throughout much of his career at Ohio State and some have questioned whether he knows the difference between pain and injury. Sat out three full games and parts of several others (including the 2009 Fiesta Bowl -- his final game in a Buckeye uniform) with foot, hamstring and head (concussion) injuries. May lack natural hands for the reception. Has only caught 15 passes for 84 career yards and too often double-clutches. Inconsistent effort as a blocker.
- NFL Draft Prophecies: Potential injury risk, as he has been banged up most of his collegiate career. May be limited as a feature back in the NFL as a feature back due to his untested hands (caught only seven passes in 2007 and eight in 2008).
With six different independent voices the questions seem rather clear and somewhat defined. The biggest concern is simple, his durability. After that it's some combination of a lack of versatility, tied to his inexperience as a pass catcher which also leads to his inexperience as a pass blocker, and a lack of top end speed.
Before anyone thinks I'm backtracking on calling Beanie the future of the Arizona Cardinals offense, his three biggest question marks could all be neutralized by the presence of Tim Hightower. First, Wells isn't going to be asked to carry the ball 20 or 25 times a game because the Cardinals offense doesn't revolve around the running game and Wells will be sharing carries with Hightower so he'll be fresher than he ever was at Ohio State. That should help him stay healthier than he was in college and his inexperience as a pass catcher will also be masked by Hightower's presence. Hightower is the better reciever and with a full year of experience he'll be a better pass protector for Kurt Warner. It's likely that Wells will be a two down back early in his career until he refines his abilities as a pass catcher and protector but the Cardinals have an answer to that question already.
With all of that said, what are your expectations for Wells and the running game in 2009 and in the future? What does Wells have to do this season in order to have a successful year?