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Running Backs Movin' Up - Week 16
Tim Van Prooyen
December 22, 2009
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Quarterbacks  |  Running Backs  |  Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

Movin’ Up

Breakdown: The season of fantasy football is coming to an end in many leagues.  With that in mind we realize that, minus the opportunity that may arise due to injury, the players with something to bring to the table this fantasy season are pretty much well known to all.  Therefore our perspective must change a bit, leading us to look beyond just this season but to next season as well.  Whether for keeper league purposes, trade purposes, or whatever other purposes may be pertinent, we’ll be taking a weekly look at players and situations that fantasy owners should be aware of in order to be on top of their game moving forward.

Beannie Wells (ARI) – Being a fan of the Michigan Wolverines, Beannie Wells is not one of my favorite backs to write about, but the fact is, he’s very much on the move up, finally, after a slow, rough start.   For a long while this season it seemed as though every time the Cardinals would give him a shot he would in turn shoot himself in the foot, whether by a turnover or just not getting the job done in acceptable fashion.  However, throughout this time it was still evident that Tim Hightower wasn’t the teams ‘back of the future’ and that his capabilities as a pure runner were limited.  This has paved the way for Wells, as the season has worn on, to overtake Hightower to become, in effect, the starting running back.

While the Cardinals aren’t a ‘run first’ team, they do want to have a more recognized presence in the run department, and Wells should allow them to do that moving into next season.  The type of power and ability he displayed on a key run against Detroit this weekend, shedding tackle after tackle, carrying defenders with him and seemingly getting by simply on will alone was a significant sign of what he brings to the table.  So far his durability questions have been a relative non-issue, but they do remain a factor that could be a limitation at some point.  However, as he showed this week with a hard earned 110 yard performance, he is very capable of being the primary ball-carrier for Arizona.

Looking forward, based on the way things seem to be trending, and baring any serious health setbacks, Wells is poised to enter the 2010 season as the primary starter.  With Warner’s situation in the air from year to year, the team will eventually, possibly as early as next year, become more of a balanced team then they are now, putting more importance on the running game, thus in Wells.  With this in mind, it is a good time to acquire him for your team and stash him away, before he starts really hitting his stride week in and week out.

Leonard Weaver (PHI) – Weaver is a big back.  At 6 foot and 250 pounds he’s a load to bring down, and he’s a very good fullback.  However, over the past couple of weeks especially, the Eagles have begun to use him more as the running back, mixing it up with LeSean McCoy.  In fact, this week Weaver was handed ten more carries than McCoy, prompting some to think the team is moving in the direction of making Weaver the feature back.  While I don’t necessarily subscribe to that line of thinking just yet, I do agree that change is coming.  Brian Westbrook is very likely done playing.  His age and recent concussion issues are likely to bring his playing days to an end, and while that is a sad thing for those who enjoyed watching him do his thing, it was going to happen sooner or later, and for the eagles, sooner is probably in their best interest.

What they plan to do in the future, I believe, is being evidenced the past couple of weeks.  Instead of being a team that uses a versatile all-purpose back to run and receive out of the backfield, they are moving more in the direction of a two back system, ideally somewhat like what Tennessee did last year, or what Carolina has tried to do recently, one quick back, coupled with a bruising back who can carry guys with him or get the hard yard.  Weaver fits that second role very well, and McCoy fits the other role well enough, meaning the team just needs to cultivate what they have and get everyone comfortable with the new scheme.  At the rate they are going, this won’t take long.

It should also be noted that Weaver is pretty good at catching the ball as well, as evidenced by not only his two receiving touchdowns, but his 140 yards on fifteen catches on the season.  He doesn’t catch many, but he sure makes an impact when he does.  It is the little things like this that make him a prime candidate for success next year and beyond.  As much as change bothers folks sometimes, the Eagles are having to face the reality of a future without Westbrook, and Weaver looks like he’ll be a very big part of that future.  Grab him now if you can, he’ll be worth it to your fantasy team in the not too distant future. 

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