Few would question that Ohio State running back Chris "Beanie" Wells has the size and ability to be a first-round draft pick.
But can he stay healthy at the NFL level?
That's the question teams are asking themselves as they determine where Wells ranks in the running back hierarchy.
A standout high school player, Wells spent three seasons with the Buckeyes, finishing with 3,382 yards, fourth on the school's all-time rushing list. He didn't do much in the passing game in college, catching just eight balls last season.
At 6-foot-1, 235 pounds, he fits the label of "Big, bruising back." Wells ran a 4.59 40-yard dash at the Scouting Combine, 11th among all running backs.
To get a better idea on Wells' college career, we called on Ken Gordon of The Columbus Dispatch.
Q: What are Wells’ strengths that make him one of the top running back prospects on the board?
A: The first time I saw him run, I said, "NFL back." That doesn't mean he's the best running back I've ever seen (that was Eddie George), but it means Beanie is the absolute prototypical power back with speed. He is a brute, he bowls people over and he has an incredible stiff-arm, so he gets through traffic. But he also has enough of a burst to zip through a hole up the middle and outrun safeties who maybe took a bad angle. To me, that's what will serve him best at the NFL level, that combination of strength, size and agility. By the way, if you haven't seen highlight tape on Wells, find last season. He hurdled two players -- one guy was diving low (against Minnesota), but the other guy (in the Illinois game) was standing pretty close to upright. Both times, Beanie -- all 6-1, 235 pounds -- literally hurdled right over the guys, landed on his feet and kept running.
Q: Do you think the knock that he’s not durable is fair? Are there other concerns about Wells you’re hearing from NFL personnel people?
A: It's totally fair, and it's something that could shorten his NFL career. The guy could be like Earl Campbell -- great for a few years, then gone. The thing about Wells is, he was always getting banged up, but then he often played through injuries, too. So it's too easy just to write him off as "soft." He played the entire 2007 season with a broken bone in his wrist that required surgery after the season, yet he rushed for more than 1,600 yards. He played with painful toe and hamstring injuries last season. But the man made a habit of limping off the field for a few plays at a time, or tapping on his helmet, a signal he needed a break. He's got a little bit of drama queen in him -- he'll limp off, then come back in and make a big play, a la Willis Reed. It's a little annoying, to be honest.
Q: Tell us about Wells' personality from having covered him. Is he good with the media? What was his relationship like with coaches and teammates?
A: Beanie is just a big kid, really. He's sort of goofy, always smiling. Even when he's talking about a negative topic (like his injuries) he's sort of "aw shucks, guys" and still smiling. He also puts a lot of pressure on himself. He knows he's good, but because of that, he takes on extra responsibility. His mother told me he's like that in his personal life, as well. When his parents got divorced, Beanie would call to check on his mom, and he kept offering to send her part of his scholarship checks to help her out. He felt protective and responsible. He's not the most verbose or articulate talker, so he's not a media darling. But he's never been a jerk to the media, either, so no hard feelings.
Q: What was Wells’ signature moment at Ohio State?
A: The 2007 game at Michigan. OSU had been No. 1 most of the season, but had just lost to Illinois and thought its national title hopes were gone (they fell to No. 7 in the BCS standings). Of course, the Michigan game is a heated rivalry, anyway. The game was played in Michigan, on Nov. 17, in a cold rain. Both quarterbacks were awful. Beanie scored and it was 7-3 prior to halftime. OSU coach Jim Tressel decided to ride his horse. The Buckeyes passed only three times in the second half. They just turned the game over to Beanie, and he ended up with 39 carries for 222 yards and both TDs in a 14-3 victory. It was the most yards any OSU player had ever rushed for against Michigan, a pretty significant record at Ohio State. And then afterward, we find out in the locker room that Beanie gave an impassioned pregame speech, very emotional, talking about how much this game meant to him and the team. He was just a sophomore at the time, but that day, he was the on- and off-field force his team needed. OSU, of course, eventually climbed back up to No. 1 and ended up in the national title game.
Q: Is there a story or anecdote you can share that readers might not know about Wells?
A: Another leadership moment. Same year, 2007, against Wisconsin. For the first time in six weeks or so, the Buckeyes are trailing and in some danger of losing -- at home, no less. Down 17-10 in the third quarter, Beanie breaks free for a 31-yard TD run to tie it. Instead of celebrating in the end zone, though, he drops the ball, circles around the back of the end zone, and runs straight back to the bench and sits down, without so much as slapping hands with a teammate. Later, he said it was his way of saying, "We're not done yet; let's keep it up." Sure enough, he scored two more second-half TDs, gaining 169 yards overall, in an eventual 38-17 victory. Again, it shows his force of will, as well as his ability to back it up on the field.
Links, projections, mocks, etc.
NFL.com's Mike Mayock has Wells ranked as his second-best running back.
Scott Wright of draftcountdown.com has Wells ranked as his top RB.
SI.com's Don Banks has the Saints taking Wells with the 14th pick.
ProFootballTalk.com has the Eagles taking Wells at No. 21.
Scott Wright of draftcountdown.com has the Eagles taking Wells at No. 28.
The National Football Post has the Saints taking Wells at No. 14.
NFL.com's Steve Wyche has the Giants taking Wells with the 29th pick.
Scouts, Inc. ranks Wells as its 17th-best prospect overall.
Chris Steuber of Scout.com has the Chargers taking Wells at No. 18.
Here are video highlights of Wells: