In the dead of the offseason, speculation rules – especially when you are sitting at your desk, racking your brain to come up with a blog topic. So when a friend of mine called me this morning asking for fantasy football advice when it came to rookie running back Beanie Wells (that's Beanie below taking part in the Camelback climb last week), well, that seems like a good jumping off point.
There's no question, in large part because of fantasy football, Wells is going to be one of the biggest rookie topics in the NFL this season. It only increases because of his college stature at Ohio State and the fact he is the de facto replacement for Edgerrin James. I apparently caused a stir a couple weeks back when I wrote I believed Tim Hightower and not Beanie would be the Cards' starting running back in the Sept. 13 regular-season opener.
It's impossible to know exactly how this will play out over the season (Did anyone last July – heck, last September – see fifth-round pick Hightower supplanting Edge altogether? I think not). I think Beanie will get playing time, whatever he earns, behind Hightower. Jason Wright will be in the mix too. Beanie's physical tools are better than Hightower's, but that's far from a lock when they get on the field.
We don't know much of Beanie on the field on this level. You learn little during the offseason practices, and Wells barely took part in any of those thanks to the Ohio State semester. The coaching staff had already headed out on vacation by the time Beanie returned. Here's what we do know: Wells was at 247 pounds when strength and conditioning coach John Lott got hold of him; Wells has shed 18 pounds (Lott had guesstimated earlier this offseason Wells' playing weight would be around 225 pounds). Lott, who spent years training Curtis Martin in New York, sees Beanie as the potentially perfect blend of power and speed – someone who can break long runs, a bonus the Cards simply haven't had much of from running backs of recent vintage.
Lott has taken Wells under his wing, knowing Beanie's importance to the future of the team. Lott, who nicknames all the rookies (long-haired CB Greg Toler is "Chia Pet" and OL Trevor Canfield is "Uncle Fester," for example), calls Wells "Little Jim Brown." Wells is from Akron, Ohio and Lott – who worked with Brown when Lott was with the Cleveland Browns – sees a facial resemblance. Will the Cards see any kind of playing resemblance from Beanie?
"I made a promise to (Larry) Fitzgerald, a promise to Kenny (Whisenhunt), a promise to players interested," Lott said of his interest in seeing Beanie break out. "I think this kid has a chance to do something. He's got the tools. … He could be a beast."