Yesterday I started my 2015 Pittsburgh Steelers Fantasy Football preview by looking at Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
Today I shift the focus to the backfield and look at running back Le’Veon Bell.
Bell is an easy guy to analyze, especially after a 2014 season in which he was the Fantasy Football MVP. I for one rode Bell to more than one title a season ago.
But there are some complications entering the 2015 campaign as Bell won’t be immediately available, serving a two-game suspension to start the season.
The good news for fantasy owners is that Bell’s suspension was cut down one game, but the bad news is that you will have to spend an early pick on a guy you won’t be able to use for the first two weeks of the season.
How has the suspension affected Bell’s draft status?
After a season in which he rushed for 1,361 yards and caught a whopping 83 passes for another 854 yards with 11 combined touchdowns, Bell would be the unanimous first choice had it not been for the suspension.
Instead we are seeing him as the fourth running back off the board on average, right behind Jamaal Charles, Adrian Peterson and Eddie Lacy. With an ADP of 3.5 right now, Bell is still going fairly high in drafts. I have seen him go as high as No. 1 and as low as No.8 in drafts I have done so far.
Where should you look to draft Bell?
Let’s take a look.
Pros- Bell takes his craft seriously and wants to be great. That was evident by dropping 20 pounds in between his first year in the league and his second. That alone let Bell become a complete back. There aren’t many three-down backs left in the league and Bell proved to be the best of the bunch.
He is so valuable in terms of fantasy impact, especially in PPR formats. Last year Bell became the first running back since Walter Payton to go over 200 total yards in three consecutive weeks. Only Roger Craig and Marshall Faulk have finished with more receiving yards in a year than Bell did in 2014. That is great company to be in.
Another positive factor is the Steelers offensive line. It may not be the Dallas Cowboys offensive line, but it is still very good, one of the Top 10 units in the league. A good line adds value to any back.
Cons- There aren’t many things to worry about Bell, but the suspension is definitely one of them. The other is injury concerns. While Bell is young still, you have to wonder how many miles he has on those legs before breaking down?
He has suffered injuries in each of his first two seasons and Mike Tomlin and Todd Haley aren’t scared to run him into the ground. He touched the ball 373 times last season which is too many. The shelf life on running backs isn’t great to begin with, but with that many touches you have to wonder.
However he will only play 14 games instead of 16 which should help and DeAngelo Williams being around should cut into his touches this season. But neither Williams nor the injury concerns are enough to offer that much concern.
If there is anything else to nitpick, it is the fact that Bell doesn’t offer up much in terms of getting into the end zone. He scored only 11 touchdowns on 373 touches. The Steelers throw the ball inside the 10-yard line more than any team in the league so Bell’s touchdown opportunities are limited, but over 2,000 total yards will offset the lack of touchdowns.
Projections– 1,100 rushing yards, seven rushing touchdowns, 65 receptions, 600 receiving yards, three receiving touchdowns.
Verdict- Bell’s numbers will be down compared to last season because of the suspension, but it is nothing to worry about. You don’t win leagues during the first two weeks of the season.
Bell is actually a very good short yardage runner, so I would hope the Steelers would give him some more carries at the goal line.
Regardless though he is still as valuable as any fantasy player in the league.
Don’t let the suspension scare you away from drafting Bell.
He likely will finish the season with a higher fantasy points per game average than any other back in the league.
With no clear cut No. 1 choice out there (to date I have seen eight different players selected No. 1 overall), this is the perfect year to be drafting in the middle of the first round.
If you have the chance to draft Bell any time after No.4 overall, don’t be afraid to pull the trigger. At the end of the year you will be glad that you did. If you have the chance and pass on him, ultimately you will regret it.
Photo Credit: Associated Press