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First Down: "Boondoggler" might someday replace "Beanie" as Chris Wells' nickname

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In virtual pigskin, owner interpretation of a player's reputation, whether positive or negative, is a fundamental drafting principle. Commodities with sterling track-records are typically selected in the early rounds while those with sketchy pasts or undefined roles usually slip.

Place Arizona rookie Chris Wells(notes) in the latter group.

Well-known for his general fragility, the former Ohio St. standout has struggled to stave off the injury imp throughout his football career. Last season in Columbus, he was sidelined three games with a lingering toe injury suffered against a vicious pack of menacing Penguins (Youngstown St.). Though he never missed any action in his other two collegiate seasons, he was occasionally limited by plaguing hamstring and head injuries.

Unable to emerge from his first professional practice unscathed, Wells, who suffered an ankle injury August 1st, has yet to complete a full session as a pro. On Tuesday, he again participated only in individual workouts, but did join the team in an exercise called "gassers," a drill Taco Bell enthusiasts are surely familiar with. Right now, he's doubtful for Thursday's Super Bowl rematch with Pittsburgh.

For most players a sprained ankle this early in the season would be considered a minor setback, but considering Beanie's brittle past and late start - he missed all of OTAs to finish his degree - the setback is especially worrisome. Although he's way behind, Ken Wisenhunt remains cautiously optimistic the prized rookie can catch up:

"I can't say that I'm disappointed because it was just an unfortunate injury to him. There's still plenty of time. He's certainly got a number of preseason games hopefully that we can get him in. So I think he'll be OK."

Understandably, Wells' extended absence has generated a great deal of apathy in the fantasy community. As a result, his draft stock has plummeted. Per Mock Draft Central, over the past week his ADP has slipped from 64.48 to 70.03, a 10.5 percent decline. Currently he's being crossed off cheat sheets around the same time as Willie Parker(notes), Hines Ward(notes), Santana Moss(notes), LenDale White(notes), Jay Cutler(notes) and Kellen Winslow(notes).

The ADP downturn raises an interesting question: Are the fantasy masses undervaluing Wells?

Sandwiched between Felix Jones(notes) and White, Beanie slots in at No. 29 in the Y! expert RB ranks. Other notable publications have ranked him similarly. But based on projections data averaged from five reputable sources (FF Today, Football Guys, Rotowire, Y!/PFW mag and AccuScore), our ranking might be a bit bearish. His aggregate forecast for '09: 230 carries, 956 rushing yards, nine scores and 67 receiving yards or 156.3 total fantasy points in standard leagues. That total would've placed 22nd among rushers last year, one spot behind Pierre Thomas(notes) (ADP: 31.14) and a notch ahead of Ryan Grant(notes) (34.25).

The Buckeye bruiser is an ultra-talented back blessed with frightening brawn, excellent straight-line speed and one of the most ferocious stiff arms on the planet. In his three-year collegiate career he averaged a whopping 5.8 yards per carry, including an impressive 6.8 clip against Texas in last year's Fiesta Bowl. But his durability concerns, Tim Hightower's(notes) presence and Arizona's pass-first offense are definitely mitigating factors. Last year, Cards rushers averaged just 21.3 carries per contest, the lowest mark in the NFL. Clearly Wisenhunt's offense centers on Kurt Warner's(notes) arm.

Wells could be positively destructive in 10-12 games this season. The upside is unquestionably there. But because he would likely suffer a fractured face in a pillow fight, the Noise will continue to bypass him in favor of more trustworthy vulturing options (i.e. LenDale Light).

Do you believe Wells is underappreciated? Where does he rank on your draft board? What's your Fearless Forecast? Discuss below.

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