Beanie Wells: Time to Jump Ship?

Ryan BoniniContributor IOctober 23, 2009

SEATTLE - OCTOBER 18:  Beanie Wells #26 of the Arizona Cardinals carries the ball during the game against the Seattle Seahawks on October 18, 2009 at Qwest Field in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Going to the Wells too infrequently

Going to the Wells too often would be a nice sight to see

Entering the 2009 fantasy football season, there were not a lot of rookies high on my cheat sheet. Unfortunately, Arizona Cardinals running back Chris Wells was one of them, and I snagged him as a RB3 or RB4 often.

Wells, with the help of the Bonini Curse (Madden and SI have nothing on me), has been a colossal bust.  So what’s a fantasy player to do?

Wells has rushed for 124 yards on 35 carries. He’s clicking along at 3.5 yards per attempt, and has one reception for seven yards. End zone trips equal a big, fat zero. Oh, and he has lost a fumble, too. He is on pace for about 400 yards rushing and no touchdowns!

For a guy drafted in the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft , and a player that was expected to unseat Tim Hightower as the team’s feature back, there hasn’t been a lot for Wells to e-mail home about (hey, gotta change the old saying to keep up with the times). Blame a training camp injury if you desire, but the fact is, Wells is doing next to nothing for fantasy teams.

Hightower, on the other hand, has rushed for 158 yards on 51 carries (3.1 ypc) and three touchdowns. He also caught 29 balls for 228 yards. He hasn’t been special, but Wells hasn’t come close to pushing him for the starting job.

Hightower will continue to hurt Beanie's numbers

Hightower not being pushed for No. 1 job

In standard performance fantasy football scoring, Hightower ranks 21st overall (53 points), and Wells—if you can see far enough—ranks 71st with 10 points. He is surrounded by the likes of the great Garrett Wolfe (Chicago Bears ), Leonard Weaver (Philadelphia Eagles ) and Brian Leonard (Cincinnati Bengals ). Not really rushing out to pick up those other three backs, huh?

To make matters even worse, the oft-injured Wells is currently sporting a hip injury. While it isn’t believed to be serious, it’s just one more reason to have concerns.

So what do owners of Beanie, like myself, do?

Many fantasy football owners have already jumped ship. He’s owned in 31 percent of Yahoo! Sports leagues, 51.9 percent of ESPN leagues, and 56 percent of leagues.

I reached out to our Arizona insider, who is also a fantasy football vet, to get his take on the situation. He, like many others, is sitting on Wells with hope of future growth within the offense.

Unfortunately, he feels it may not come until the final six weeks of the season.

The Cardinals may look to slowly work him into the mix at that time, much like they did with cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie . At that point, it may be too late if you’re currently struggling to find play-worthy running backs.

After seeing no more than seven carries during his first four games, the Cardinals fed him the rock 12 times during a Week Six thumping of the Seattle Seahawks . Unfortunately, he didn’t shine with his extra opportunities, as he had his second-worst yards-per-carry outing (2.4). Wells did see some touches early, so his extra carries were not purely to run out the clock.

Arizona Cardinals Schedule

Statistics shown are stats over the last four weeks given up on average to opposing running backs.

Week 7 – @ New York Giants : Allowing 67.5 rush yards, 1 rush TD, 3 rec, 12.8 rec yards, 0 rec TD

Week 8 – Carolina Panthers : Allowing 108.3 rush yards, 1 rush TD, 3.3 rec, 28.7 rec yards, 0.33 rec TD

Week 9 – @ Chicago Bears : Allowing 75.7 rush yards, 1 rush TD, 6.3 rec, 52.3 rec yards, 0.33 rec TD

Week 10 – Seattle Seahawks : Allowing 65.8 rush yards, 0.75 rush TD, 6 rec, 39.8 rec yards, 0 rec TD

Week 11 – @ St. Louis Rams : Allowing 101.8 rush yards, 1.75 rush TD, 4.5 rec, 44 rec yards, 0.25 rec TD

Week 12 – @ Tennessee Titans : Allowing 103.3 rush yards, 0.75 rush TD, 6.5 rec, 44.5 rec yards, 0.25 rec TD

Week 13 – Minnesota Vikings : Allowing 81.5 rush yards, 0.50 rush TD, 5.5 rec, 56.3 rec yards, 0 rec TD

Week 14 – @ San Francisco 49ers : Allowing 112.3 rush yards, 1 rush TD, 6 rec, 33.3 rec yards, 0 rec TD

Week 15 – @ Detroit Lions : Allowing 92.5 rush yards, 0.75 rush TD, 5.5 rec, 40.5 rec yards, 0.50 rec TD

Week 16 – St. Louis Rams : Allowing 101.8 rush yards, 1.75 rush TD, 4.5 rec, 44 rec yards, 0.25 rec TD

Week 17 – Green Bay Packers : Allowing 86.3 rush yards, 0.33 rush TD, 4.67 rec, 33.3 rec yards, 0 rec TD

Weeks Eight, 11, 12, 14, 15, and 16 are all attractive options for the Cardinals’ running game and Wells. However, you need to keep these facts in mind:

  • The Cardinals are LAST in rushing attempts in the league—19.8 per game. That’s less than the league-worst 21.2 they averaged a year ago! How bad is that? The Miami Dolphins are almost averaging double (36.6) what the Cardinals do.
  • The Cardinals are tied for LAST in yards per attempt (with the Chargers)—2.9 ypc.
  • The Cardinals are tied for LAST in yards rushing per game (with the Chargers, again)—57.6 ypg.
  • The longest carry of the season for the Cardinals is 17 yards; tied for LAST in the league with—you guessed it—the Chargers.
  • The Cardinals are LAST in rushing first downs: 15

The Cardinals feature a trio of rock-solid receivers (Larry Fitzgerald , Anquan Boldin , and Steve Breaston ) and are averaging a league-leading 42.2 passing attempts per game. Conventional wisdom would be defenses have to cheat against the pass, opening up running lanes. While that may be the case, the Cardinals are not taking advantage of the situation. They have a pass-first mentality; the past year-and-a-half has proven it to be all too true.

So, even if Beanie starts to see more carries (keep in mind he already has a better YPC than Hightower), it’s still likely to be a committee approach and Hightower has proven to be a capable receiving back, so Wells won’t contribute much there.

When you are last in the league in rushing attempts, there isn’t a big piece of pie to go around, so the time share will only further diminish his value, even if he garners the majority of the carries.

If you’re deep at running back, continue to stash Beanie away as a RB5 or RB6. You’ve made it this far and, despite all of the negative team statistics regarding the lack of running the ball, he still has marginal upside you probably can’t replace on your waiver wire.

If you’re hurting, now is the time to take action. While he has a favorable schedule down the stretch, you can only afford to be patient so long.

I’m starting to shop him to the owner of Hightower to give that owner the handcuff, while looking for a player who may be able to contribute immediately to my fantasy squad, or to obtain a handcuff to one of my own starters.

What do you plan to do with Beanie? Suck it up and wait it out or send him elsewhere?