From Beanie Wells to DeAngelo Williams

Beanie Wells' comments to The Fan AM 1060 suggest he understands the urgency he faces heading into his third NFL season.

Wells, generally promising as an Arizona Cardinals rookie in 2009, never got going after suffering a knee injury during the 2010 exhibition season. The team's decision to use a 2011 second-round choice for running back Ryan Williams turned up the pressure.

"This is my third year and three strikes, you're out," Wells told The Fan, "and I'm definitely not striking out this year. I'm ready to roll, I'm ready to tear it up this year."

What does Williams' addition mean for Wells? Much will depend on how the players perform during training camp and beyond. But in looking back through recent NFL drafts, it's clear the Cardinals have addressed the position more aggressively in the draft than other teams.

Wells was the 31st overall choice in his draft class. Williams was the 38th player chosen this year. Only three other teams since 2000 have used two picks among the top 40 overall selections for running backs within a four-year period. The Cardinals and Carolina Panthers were the only teams to do so within three years.

DeAngelo Williams (27th overall in 2006) and Jonathan Stewart (13th in 2008) have formed an effective rushing combination in Carolina over recent seasons. Drafting Stewart did not spell the end for Williams. In fact, Williams broke out with a 1,500-yard season months after Carolina drafted Stewart. Both players topped 1,000 yards the following year.

Williams had only 1,218 yards in two seasons before Stewart arrived. He had played in 29 games, with two starts, to that point of his career. Wells has 1,190 yards in his first two seasons. He also has 29 games and two starts.

The situation in Carolina was different. The Panthers weren't growing impatient with Williams when they drafted Stewart. Coach John Fox was content going with DeShaun Foster as the starter while Williams earned an opportunity. Foster had put in his time behind Stephen Davis. Williams took over when his time came, with Stewart joining him.

For Arizona, adding Williams puts pressure on Wells without necessarily forcing him out. Tim Hightower, a fifth-round choice in 2008, also faces an uncertain future. He lost five fumbles last season while posting a career-high 4.8-yard average on 153 carries.

The chart shows teams that drafted two running backs among the top 40 overall choices within a four-year span, all since 2000.

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