Sunday, June 21, 2009

This year's rookie sensations

Three rookie RBs ended the 2008 season among the Top 10 fantasy backs: Matt Forte (#4), Steve Slaton (#6) and Chris Johnson (#10). Each enjoyed great early success due to their individual talent and the favorable situations into which they were drafted.

Two first-year backs offer similar upside heading into 2009: Ohio State's Chris "Beanie" Wells (top) and Georgia's Knowshon Moreno.

Moreno waltzes into a Broncos backfield that has undergone a complete makeover. Gone are last year's hodgepodge of backs, including Selvin Young and Tatum Bell. Moreno, selected with the 12th overall pick in April's draft, is expected to get the bulk of the workload over aging free-agent acquisitions Correll Buckhalter and LaMont Jordan. Though he doesn't have ideal size to be a workhorse back, Moreno has already demonstrated an ability to pick up the blitz (a common bugaboo of rookie RBs) and should have little trouble taking over the feature role in an offense that could struggle through the air now that Jay Cutler works in Chicago.

But as high as I am on Moreno, the guy that excites me most is Wells. Aside from his ridiculous nickname and a history of nagging injuries, there's nothing not to love about Beanie. Arizona took him with the 31st overall pick as the centerpiece of their plan to improve one of the NFL's worst rushing attacks. Edgerrin James was released and Tim Hightower proved he's not an every down back. Enter Beanie, whose rare combination of size and speed should make him unstoppable as the running complement to the Warner-Fitz-Boldin air show. After all, opposing defenses would be nuts to stack the box against that passing attack.

I took Wells as my RB2 in the 4th round of Sporting News' expert mock draft. Methinks he won't be available that late when we draft for real in late August.

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