A random thought raced through my head this weekend.....if we do strike gold and land the giant fish known as Peyton Manning, how much does that affect the role and/or future of Beanie Wells? Wells is coming off his best season in 2011 and certainly showed flashes of being the kind of workhorse back that the Cardinals envisioned when they drafted him in 2009. Despite his recent success though, you have to question how a powerful, north/south runner who offers very little out of the backfield would fair in the typical Peyton Manning, one back offense. While I'm not advocating releasing or totally dumping Beanie, it does make you wonder if the Cards wouldn't be better off trying to trade Beanie while his value is relatively high. Here are some of the struggles that I think Beanie would face in a Manning offense and maybe even a reason or two why the offense would bog down while Beanie is on the field.
Again, this entire fanpost is contingent upon landing Peyton Manning. That's the only reason why I'd even consider trading Beanie right now.
Overall offense: One thing that might be a common misconception about PM offenses is that they don't run the ball all that often and I was surprised to see that on average he ran the ball more often than the Cardinals did last season (past 8 seasons he averaged 420 running plays, 31 times more than the Cardinals last season). So it's not like the opportunity to run the ball won't be there, but is Wells the kind of back to fit Manning's system?
Short yardage: I'll start with Beanie's strength and the primary reason why he should not be traded. He is by far the best short yardage back on the roster and there might not even be a second place. His frame is built for picking up that yard or two when you absolutely need it and it seems like he's running behind his pads more and more as he grows as a professional. Last season Wells converted 62% of his opportunities from 2 yards or less and he was even more impressive on carries inside the opponents' two yard line, turning 7 of his 10 carries into scores. Beanie's 35 carries in short yardage situations were almost more carries than LSH had in the entire season but just for comparison sake, LSH toted the rock 5 times in short yardage situations converting only two of them. Manning -led offenses in the past have almost always struggled in short yardage situations, too often resulting in passes to pick up those crucial yards, and there's a fairly good chance that trading Wells would result in the exact same situation here.
Receiving threat: It's only natural to follow up his greatest strength with his greatest weakness right? Wells offers almost zero value out of the backfield (grand total of 27 receptions in his three year career) and I think it's fair to say that he'd be the worst receiving back to ever line up in a PM offense, certainly as a starter. As a point of reference, Manning's lead backs have averaged just over 40 receptions per year since 2003. Football Outsiders graded Wells extremely low as a receiver last season (-38.5% in DVOA and -37.1% in VOA) and only five RBs in the league graded out lower. As a comparison, LSH was insanely effective out of the backfield posting an 89% in DVOA and a 90% in VOA. With Wells being such a poor receiver, you've got to think that would hinder an offense that so often changes from pass to run at the line of scrimmage. Manning led offenses are dynamic and complete opposite of one dimensional and that type of system requires players who are adaptable to almost any play call.
Formations: This last area is totally off the top of my head, in that I have no stats whatsoever to back this up, but I feel like Beanie has performed better in traditional running formations (with a fullback or double tight ends etc). I spent most of the morning trying to look up formational type stats but couldn't come up with any. 'm sure almost every back is more comfortable with a lineup that favors running the ball but Beanie, as a north/south, power runner, seems like there is a significant difference between running out of traditional running formations and today's spread offense formations.
So what are your thoughts? If we could flip Beanie for a more versatile back and third round pick, would you do it? With the health questions surrounding Williams, I wouldn't advocate trading Wells for just draft picks but would you be willing to trade him for a second and then find a better fit on the free agent market?