Beanie is one of my favorite players.  I’ve loved him since he entered the league.  He was a legitimate STUD in the college ranks.  I know he hasn’t necessarily lived up to the hype he had coming out.  I saw a guy on par with Adrian Peterson in terms of talent.  And what we’ve seen from him so far is… well… something less.  But I will tell you I’m still high on the guy and I still believe Wells can be a difference maker in the NFL and on fantasy teams.  And here is why.

First let’s take a look at Beanie’s rushing numbers since he came into the league:

Year G Rush Yds Y/G Avg TD
2009 16 176 793 49.6 4.5 7
2010 13 116 397 30.5 3.4 2
2011 15 245 1047 69.8 4.3 10

Obviously last year was by far his most productive and much better than his injury hindered 2010.  While many feel Wells put up a fairly sub-par year in 2011  I say that 1047 yards and 10 TD’s is nothing to sneeze at.  Certainly nothing to ignore.  Last year was the first time he was used as the bell cow back in the offense and he performed admirably despite playing through injuries of various sorts.  But that leads us to the perpetual problem with Beanie.

The guy seems to ALWAYS be banged up in some fashion or another.  Take the latest rotoworld update (from June 1st) for example:

Beanie Wells concedes that he may not be “full-tilt” for the beginning of training camp.

The Cardinals want Wells to play it conservatively, and he’s been gradually increasing his workload. “Today I did a little bit of running, a little bend and pulls and stuff to strengthen the quad,” Wells said. The knee itself, Beanie added, “is a process that’s getting better each day.”

This is nothing new for Beanie owners.  He’s always got something holding him back.  And as we saw in 2011 he CAN play hurt he just doesn’t play all that well when he is hurt.  Still, the fact that he played hurt last year (unlike in previous years) shows us something.  He’s looking to improve and wants to be on the field.  That type of motivation is encouraging and if he can play through pain then he’s going to be good.  When healthy Wells shows a burst and tenacity that sets him apart from other running backs in this league.  He has the size, speed, and strength combo that lends itself well to being a workhorse.  So hopefully the nicks stop coming at full speed and slow to a more adequate pace.

Another possible negative people bring up is Ryan Williams.  The Cardinal’s 2nd round pick in 2011 is back this year after suffering a season ending injury in preseason as a rookie.  But as many other players (Cadillac Williams and Mark Clayton) have shown ruptured patellar tendon is no easy thing to recover from.   Itcomes with a recovery time of over 12 months which means Williams won’t be back to his regular self for the start of the season.  If he ever is.  It’s a devastating injury to suffer from as a rookie because there is so much time and experience lost that he may never realize the potential he once had.  He could carve out a change of pace role but I don’t see him unseating Beanie as a starter.  Certainly not this season.

So with all that said, I believe that IF Wells can stay healthy he can play at a high level through ALL 16 games.  At that point the sky is the limit.  He can put up as many points as anyone at the RB position.  He has the talent to do it all in terms of rushing and could easily put up career numbers at any time.  I don’t see him regressing only getting better.  Unless, of course, the injury bug strikes again which is impossible to predict.  Even so you should be able to expect similar numbers to 2011 which is low end RB2 production.

If there is one guy you can acquire for a relatively cheap price, is at a relatively young age, and has a ton of upside I would name Wells as that running back.  He is currently going at about a round 5 value in dynasty startups, which to me seems like a steal for a 23 year old running back with the starting role.  I say buy him now and take advantage of the possible upside.  You won’t be giving up as much as you would for most backs his age and the upside he presents is just as good.  There’s no reason to wait and see because in my opinion the price tag will only go up.