July 02, 2009

Better known to Buckeye fans as "Beanie," Chris Wells is a bruising 237-pound back with surprising elusiveness and breakaway speed. Having landed in Arizona (31st selection), Wells will join one of the league's most productive offenses. Fantasy owners are hopeful that defenses will remain focused on stopping Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin, allowing Wells to eat up chunks of yards and push his weight around near the goal line.

Dissecting the depth chart: Last season the Cardinals were saved by 2008 fifth round selection Tim Hightower, who contributed 10 touchdowns. Edgerrin James was ineffective for much of the year, but seemed to run on fresh legs in the season finale and throughout the playoffs. However, soon to turn 31, James is no longer capable of being the team's featured back, and Hightower's 2.8 yards per carry last year forced Arizona to go shopping. Many suspect Wells will jump to the front of the depth chart not long after camp opens.

Just the stats: As a freshman in 2006 he averaged 5.5 yards per carry for Ohio State, scoring seven touchdowns on just 106 offensive touches. Wells gained more than 1,000 yards in both his sophomore and junior seasons, but was hobbled for much of 2008 thanks to a toe injury suffered in a game against Youngstown State. He gained 100 or more yards in 17 of the 23 games in which he played his final two seasons. In the national title game against LSU in January 2008, Wells was the lone bright spot for the Buckeyes, gaining 146 yards on 20 carries.

2008 rookie comparison:Darren McFadden, Raiders

Like McFadden, Wells will suffer from the hype that surrounds him. McFadden suffered mostly because of his environment; the Raiders were not equipped to support him and so fantasy owners got to see very few flashes of the player McFadden had been at the University of Arkansas. He gained 499 yards and found the end zone four times for Oakland. Fantasy owners can expect a bit more from Wells (700-plus yards and six touchdowns), but nowhere near the numbers set by 2008's elite fantasy rookie running backs -- Steve Slaton, Matt Forte and Chris Johnson.

Interesting fact that won't help you: Wells was the most valuable player of the 2006 U.S. Army All-American Bowl. The game showcases some of the country's top prep football stars each year in January.

What he's worth: So far fantasy owners view Wells as a No. 3 running back in traditional leagues. His Average RapidDraft Position (ARDP) has been 52nd overall (28th among backs). Chances are, a solid camp and favorable reviews from the Cardinals coaching staff will inflate Wells' fantasy value as the end of July approaches, prompting fantasy owners to draft him as a lower-level starter (helping him to rise five to 10 spots at his position).

The Cardinals ranked dead last in 2008 in team rushing attempts (340) and second-to-last in average yards per carry (3.5). Although team officials have stated their commitment to improving the ground game, Wells cannot be expected to solve the problem all by himself. Also of note: Wells caught just 15 passes during his three years at Ohio State -- not good news for those fantasy owners in PPR leagues.

For these reasons, and because Wells is only a rookie, he will probably best serve fantasy owners this season as a spot starter.

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