It's almost June and everyone reading this article knows what that means. While it's never too early to start fantasy football research (I have no life so I've started in February), the fact that not many do research this early clearly says that readers of this article are diehard fantasy football players.
Le'Veon Bell came back from injury last year in week 4 for the Pittsburgh Steelers and finished as the 15th ranked running back. If he would have stayed healthy for all 16 games he would have finished as the 6th ranked running back in ESPN standard scoring at the end of the year, just ahead of the legend of Adrian Peterson himself. So why shouldn't a first/early second round pick be used on him this year?
For starters, many college touches as Michigan State's workhorse makes him an injury risk (as shown last year). However, injuries happen so I'm not going to use that excuse against him.
What I am going to use against him is the fact that normally rookies come into the NFL fresh and it shows in their game. However, nothing about Bell's game showed this. Last year, Le'Veon Bell had 10 carries on the one yard line and only converted four for touchdowns and he had 220 carries outside the 10 yard line and took 0 for touchdowns. (Rotoworld).
What this should tell you is that the eight touchdowns Le'Veon Bell had last year in 13 games were essentially all goal line carries. Why is that a problem? Well, it is a huge problem because LeGarrette Blount was signed this offseason for New England and signed him to a 2 year, $4 million deal and considered Blount isn't a pass catcher but excels at the goal line, the same place where Bell struggled last year and got injured many times (one being on Thanksgiving on National television in a gruesome hit), Pittsburgh isn't going to play Blount $2 million a year for nothing especially when half the running backs this offseason got little to nothing.
So if Le'Veon Bell scored four of his eight touchdowns on the one yard line and the other four inside the ten, when is he going to score touchdowns? However, the thing about fantasy football is touchdowns are unpredictable and yardage is, so at least he can make up for his projected lack of touchdowns in yardage right?
Well, despite Bell being a great pass catcher, he had over 100 total yards four times in thirteen games last year and 100 yards rushing just one time last year (DeMarco Murray and Eddie Lacy both had double the amount of 100 total yard games in the same amount of games). One 100 yard rushing game? That is bad considered Bell had 68% of the Steelers carries last year despite missing three games. (Football Guys). That's a lot and considered he still couldn't get over 100 yards rushing in a game twice is concerning.
Also, Le'Veon Bell just plain wasn't good as a runner last year. His 3.5 yards per carry average was second worst among starting backs last year (just ahead of Ray Rice), his 2.1 yards after contact per attempt was dead last, his 33.7 elusive rating and his 15.1 breakaway percentage was bottom five. (PFF). Also, his numbers remind me of Trent Richardson's rookie numbers which also concerns me because I was afraid of his value last year as well.
In his rookie year, Le'Veon Bell had 244 carries for 860 yards and 8 touchdowns with 45 catches for 399 yards with a 3.5 ypc average. In comparison, Trent Richardson had 267 carries for 950 yards and 11 touchdowns with 51 receptions for 367 yards and another touchdown with a 3.6 ypc average. That's scary similar with Trent's actually being better.
Also, since 2003, 33 rookie runnings finished top 20 in running back fantasy points their rookie year and out of those 33, 18 of them had over 7 touchdowns their rookie year with four of them having under 4 yards per carry. Out of the 18 that had over 7 touchdowns, 13 of them saw decreases the next year and all four who had under 4 yards per carry suffered a decline in yardage and touchdowns the next year with the most recents being the aforementioned Trent Richardson and Vick Ballard. (Rotoworld).
In conclusion, after looking at all the numbers and stats, Le'Veon Bell clearly didn't impress anyone as a runner or at the goal line, being solely dependent on volume his rookie year. Well, what happens when that volume goes away as it will with the signing on LeGarrette Blount? The running back struggles to produce yardage with less touches and considered Blount is the goal line back, based on Bell's 0 touchdowns over ten yards away, it's safe to say he is going to struggle scoring as well.
However, the one thing Le'Veon Bell does better than most is catch passes. While the drafting of Dri Archer could take a few of those away, Bell should still be a good bet for 50 catches. I currently have him as a third round pick and RB14 in my rankings so unless your in a PPR league, if you take Le'Veon Bell with anything before a third round pick, you will be disappointed.
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