Mailbag: No reason to hold back Beanie Wells

May, 12, 2009
5/12/09
12:47
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Mackay from Pleasant Grove, Utah writes: Sandman, I always appreciate the time you spend on your blog. It helps me keep up on my team, as well as get excited about the rest of the teams in the division. My question I have for you is directed to the Cardinals' first-round draft pick, Beanie Wells. I have read multiple times that he is injured too easily, or that he was pampered in the NCAA. How do you feel? Do you think that he may have been cautious because he didn't want anything to happen to sacrific a spot in the NFL? Didn't the same sort of information come out on Adrian Peterson? I don't know. I also want to know your opinion on if it is a good idea to start rookies running backs, or have them play backup for a while.

Mike Sando: Thanks, Mackman. Younger backs can certainly have success. Edgerrin James rushed for 1,709 yards at age 22. Clinton Portis topped 1,500 yards at age 21 and again at age 22. Jamal Lewis, Adrian Peterson, LaDainian Tomlinson, Kevin Jones, Marshawn Lynch, Dominic Rhodes and Steven Jackson all had 1,000-yard seasons this decade at age 21 or 22. I see no reason to withhold Wells from the lineup simply because he's a rookie. It's not as though the Cardinals have an established veteran at the position.

As for whether Wells protected an injury in college, I couldn't make that assessment because I did not study him. The people who did study him said things about him that could have been consistent with a player protecting injuries, but that doesn't necessarily make it so.

Steve Muench of Scouts Inc. had this to say about Wells before the draft:

"Everyone in the world has him in the first round, but I am worried about him. He is softer than people say he is -- not soft, but softer than people say he is. And I'm also not convinced he is going to be quick and agile enough. He is a big back with good speed, but I'm worried about his quickness and his wiggle."

Once the Cardinals made the pick, Muench offered this assessment:

"Wells is a big back, but he does not have great toughness. There's a clip you'll see against Michigan where he is 20 yards downfield and one on one against a back and he steps out of bounds. Not encouraging.

"When he hurt his foot this year, the fact that he threw the ball on the ground when he got hurt was not good. His first instinct was to throw the ball down [while the play was live]. Talent-wise, he would be the most talented back on the roster. He is a steal this late in the first round if you can get the light to come on for him.

"It's such a good value and it's such a need. I'm sure they sat down with him and got a feel and if they are comfortable with that, then it's a good fit for them right there. When you can look that kid in the eye and see what kind of player he is going to be, that is important."


Ryan from Washington, D.C., writes: Given that Josh McDaniels fancies himself a Belichick kind of guy who likes to deal ... and considering Brandon Marshall's contract status, hip surgery, off-field issues (including a possible suspension) and the emergence of Eddie Royal ...

Would a trade of Marshall to the 49ers for a 2010 draft pick and a couple of the receivers from their current logjam (Battle and Jones, maybe) be a possibility? The post-Nolan 49ers seem more than willing to take on players with checkered pasts, and appear confident that Singletary can deal with them.

I'd love to see Marshall, Morgan and Crabtree on the field at the same time and I assume it'd be more likely to happen than getting Boldin. Or I suppose the 49ers can wait until after the season, when Bruce is retiring and the franchise-tagged Marshall is sick of Kyle Orton and demanding they let him out.

Mike Sando: Marshall is in the final year of his contract, so the salary-cap ramifications would be insignificant. I just don't see a great need for the 49ers at receiver after adding Michael Crabtree. The team would then be using two first-round choices for receivers, in effect.

The first time (Crabtree) was totally understandable from a value standpoint. The 49ers do not need to use the 2010 first-rounder at this time, however, and they certainly do not need to use one for a receiver. It would seem like overkill to me.

I'd rather keep the extra choice for maximum flexibility next year. If I traded it, I would want the player received in return to fill an immediate need. That is consistent with how 49ers general manager Scot McCloughan views the draft and free agency. He talks about the draft as the place teams try to find the best players, and free agency as the place where teams try to fill needs. Trading picks in the offseason would fall under the philosophy for free agency. Best to fill a need if you're going to go that route.


Mike from Norwalk, Conn., writes: Hey Sando, what do you think about the 9ers' air game? I am really optimistic about Morgan and Crabtree playing together, also with Davis, Hill, and Bruce in the mix, and Gore and Coffee setting up the play action I think that if the 9er's pick the most consistent QB to be their starter the 9er's offense can be very productive. Do you think that Morgan and Crabtree can develop into a legit 1-2 threat? And do you have any information about Crabtree possibly working out with Rice?

Mike Sando: You're getting me excited and I'm not even a fan. Josh Morgan is definitely a player to watch this season. As impressive as he was at times last season, he suffered from a staph infection at one point. He lost weight and strength. The NFL is demanding enough for rookies who are not suffering from such ailments. Morgan showed last season he has the right approach in terms of his professionalism and work ethic. He also grasps concepts, not just specific assignments. The 49ers liked what they saw from him last season. He could slide under the radar some now that Crabtree is onboard. We should not forget about him.

As for Crabtree and Rice, I do not have specific information about any such workouts.


Sing from Visalia writes: Do you think the 49ers made a mistake by not drafting Everette Brown
when they needed help at the pass rush or did they make a smart move for next year?

Mike Sando: I do not think the 49ers made a mistake based on what they knew about the players. Just about everyone had Crabtree rated higher than Everette Brown was rated. If the 49ers would have drafted Brown instead, we'd be hearing about how the team reached for need, bypassing more talented players.


Paul from Seattle writes: Hey Mike, First of all I want to say I love reading your reports. One question about the Seahawks. I love our offseason moves and sense that the Seahawks can make a real playoff push. Our defense has the potential to be one of the best of the league and now that we have decent DL rotation it takes a lot of pressure off the secondary, which, let's face it, stunk last year.

I do however have two questions about our defensive personnel, namely Brian Russell and Cory Redding. First off, are there reasons Brian Russell is starting vs. Jordan Babineaux? I've seen lots of big plays from "big play" and well, not much from Russell. Also, how well have smaller interior pass rushers (Cory Redding) worked out in the past? I haven't heard much about them in the past.

Mike Sando: Thanks, Paul. I see the defense improving, but I'd be surprised if the Seahawks fielded one of the best in the league. Shooting for the top 15 might be a more reasonable goal.

The Seahawks did play Jordan Babineaux at safety a few years ago. I remember Babineaux starting at safety against Kansas City in 2006. The Chiefs carried 53 times for 191 yards and three touchdowns in that game. The big plays from Babineaux have generally come against the pass. I'm not sure how well he projects as a starting safety on running downs. He's been productive in certain situations, but I think he's more of a tweener than a true safety.

As for smaller interior rushers, they can be terrific. John Randle comes to mind. Redding would be used inside on passing downs. He had 8.0 sacks for the Lions in 2006 while playing inside quite a bit.


SeaChicken from Seattle writes: With all of the talk about Matt Hasselbeck's health, one important fact has been forgotten. Last year, Seneca Wallace looked more poised, aware, and generally capable than most other quarterbacks in the league.

Wallace made the throws that he had to make, even with a receiving corps that was recruited straight out of a Seattle YMCA. His athleticism and awareness often allowed him to make something out of nothing in a manner reminiscent of Coach Zorn in his playing days. Most importantly, you could tell the offense responded to him. It was Seneca's team. Even if Matt can't play the whole year, I think we'll be alright at QB.

Mike Sando: Good points. Wallace played well last season when he was healthy. The calf injury slowed him and limited him severely. He did finish the season with 11 touchdowns, three interceptions and an 87.0 rating while completing 58.3 percent of his passes. It's safe to assume he would top 60 percent completions playing with a better cast of receivers. Remember, too, that he was starting behind a makeshift line late in the season.

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