Combine height: 6-1
Combine weight: 235 pounds
Combine 40 time: 4.59 seconds
Wells’ final campaign at Ohio State was marred by injury, but he still managed 207 carries for 1,242 yards (6.0 yards per carry) and eight touchdowns; he also caught eight passes for 47 yards. In his abbreviated Buckeye career, Wells totaled 3,496 yards and 30 touchdowns on 585 carries (6.0 yards per carry), along with 15 catches for 84 yards.
Simply put, Wells is the total package. He’s big, strong, fast, and a natural runner who has been compared to everyone from Jim Brown to Adrian Peterson, and no less an authority than two-time Heisman winner Archie Griffin called him the best running back in Ohio State history. While his Combine 40 may seem on the slow side, when healthy Wells had no trouble running away from defenders in the open field. He’s also a punishing inside runner who moves piles yet has the quick feet to slip through small openings at the line.
The biggest flaw in Wells’ game is the same one that devalued Peterson on draft day: durability questions. Wells’ 2008 was derailed by a toe injury and ended early due to a concussion; in between he also battled a hamstring injury, ultimately missing three full games and parts of several others and leading scouts to wonder if Wells knows how to play through pain. Wells has limited exposure in the passing game, so there are concerns about his hands and ability in pass protection—but that’s a relatively minor issue when stacked next to Wells’ immense potential.
Some scouts have Wells as the top back in this year’s draft; others place him behind Knowshon Moreno. Regardless, after watching Peterson slide to the seventh spot due to durability concerns a couple years back, teams may be less inclined to pass on Wells this time around. The fun could start as early as the fifth pick, with the homestate Browns filling multiple needs—an heir to Jamal Lewis, an offensive playmaker, a ball control guy for Eric Mangini, and an Ohio hero to boot. The Jaguars at 8 and 49ers at 10 are more in the market for a complementary back and would seem better served by waiting a round or two, but Wells may simply be too good to pass up. If he slides to 16 the Chargers could view him as LaDainian Tomlinson’s replacement, or the Jets one pick later might bring him in to take over when Thomas Jones runs out of gas. The Eagles, Patriots, and Colts have also been mentioned as possible landing spots for Wells, and there’s little doubt that if he somehow remains on the board at 31 the Cardinals will have their replacement for Edgerrin James.
Wells will enter the NFL with tons of talent and low mileage—perfectly suited to take over for an extended run as a team’s primary ball-carrier. If he goes to a team ready to give him that opportunity, he’ll likely crack the top 10 fantasy backs heading into the 2009 season. Even if he lands in a potential job share, visions of Peterson’s rookie campaign “sharing carries” with Chester Taylor will spur Wells into early-round consideration—and for good reason. The biggest assumption, much as it was with Peterson coming out of Oklahoma, will be whether or not Wells can stay healthy. Rest assured, for every member of your league who’s staying away because of injury concerns there will be at least one who sees all that upside and won’t hesitate to pull the trigger on an early-round selection.
Long-term, the only downside to Wells is that nagging durability question. Wells may also be a little less effective in a PPR league given his lack of pass-catching experience, but his upside in the ground game should alleviate those concerns—and there’s always the possibility that his receiving skills were merely untapped at Ohio State. As stated above, Wells hits the league with plenty of upside; there’s certainly some risk to his reward, but the reward is mighty enticing.