With a three-game suspension, should Le’Veon Bell still be the first player off the board in your 2015 Fantasy Football draft?
There are basically two schools of thought on the issue:
1. You draft the running back who will score the most points for the whole season.
2. You draft Bell, and hope one of your backups can produce decent results while Bell is out. After his suspension is over, you have the possibility of owning the running back who averages the most points from Week 4 to Week 16.
I think what most Fantasy Football players need to realize is that a three-game suspension still means Bell will only play in 12 games because of a bye week. It’s true that every NFL team has a bye, but not every players is going to miss the first three weeks of the season. That personally scares me, but what is a general consensus in the industry?
Michael Fabiano(Senior Fantasy Analyst for NFL.com) on Le’Veon Bell
— NFL Fantasy Football (@NFLfantasy) April 9, 2015
In his recent article, “Le’Veon Bell stays in fantasy first round despite ban,” Michael Fabiano states that, “While a three-game ban would be enough to scare a lot of owners from drafting him in the first round, I still see Bell as a top-10 fantasy selection despite a trend that doesn’t bode well for his prospects.”
Since 1970, Fabiano states there have only been 13 instances where a running back who has missed a minimum of three games has finished as a top-five back. So out of 44 seasons, there have been 220 top-five running back finishers, and only 13 of those finishers were from players who missed three or more games.
Granted, the game has changed dramatically over the years, so what about data from more recent players? Since 2005, Fabiano states that Arian Foster(2011 & 2014) and Darren McFadden(2010) are the only players to miss a minimum of three games, and still rank among the five-best players at their position. It’s also important to take in consideration that Bell is not missing time because of an injury, so he will be fresh from Day 1.
Dave Richard(Senior Fantasy Analyst for CBSSports.com) on Le’Veon Bell
— Dave Richard (@daverichard) April 9, 2015
In, “Le’Veon Bell is still No.1… for now,”Dave Richard provides plenty of insight on some of the issues you will face as a Bell owner. As a non-Bell owner, you could wait later in the draft to land backup DeAngelo Williams. If you are a Bell owner and want Williams on your team, however, you might need to spend an earlier pick than you would like to make sure Williams finds a spot on your roster.
Richard also leaves us with a compelling question, however. “Great Fantasy players deliver no matter who they play or who they play with, and Bell qualifies as one of those greats. He has hit the 10-plus mark in 21 of his last 26 games. Even with the suspension and the schedule being what it is, are you sure you want to give up on a player who delivers quality numbers over 80 percent of the time?”
Isaac Leicht(Analyst for FantasyPros.com) on Le’Veon Bell
Isaac Leicht makes an interesting point in, “Fantasy Impact: Le’Veon Bell 3 Game Suspension,” that I alluded to earlier in my considerations for drafting Bell. “Bell gives his owners an advantage over the opposition on a weekly basis. In other words, I want Bell on my team because he’s more likely than most fantasy players to win my week by outproducing anyone else’s RB1. He’s a generational talent in a very thin position. Running backs are in short supply, and feature backs like Bell are even tougher to find.”
Leicht also provides several popular running backs that he would draft behind Bell, but he actually tells Fantasy Football players not draft him as the first-overall pick in their leagues.
So analysts think he can return top-10 value, but there are obvious barriers for Bell finishing as a top-three back in 2015.
Drafting the Highest-Scoring Running Back Approach
With the first spot in a draft, I want to select the running back who I think will score the most points. This can create some issues, however, as everyone has a different opinion on who is going to be the highest-scoring back in 2015. Eddie Lacy is currently at the top of my list, but you can make an argument for Jamaal Charles, or even Adrian Peterson. I’m worried that Charles will be less involved in the passing attack because of Jeremy Maclin and a healthy Travis Kelce, which could cause him to lose some value. We also haven’t seen Peterson play in a year, but again, those are my reasonings against those players. You may have your own reasonings against Lacy, and that’s what Fantasy Football is all about. From his play in 2014, however, most people had the general consensus that Bell was in good shape to be the highest-scoring back in 2015, which shakes everything up.
Finding a Replacement for Le’Veon Bell
If you are unable or don’t want to draft Williams, there are actually a ton of backs who could be available in the later rounds of drafts who may currently be undervalued. On FantasyFootballCalculator.com, these are the current backs who you are available from Round 7 to Round 10:
- Denard Robinson
- Branden Oliver
- Doug Martin
- Ryan Mathews
- Jerick McKinnon
- Bishop Sankey
- Shane Vereen
- Ande Williams
- Knile Davis
- Terrance West
- Reggie Bush
- Darren Sproles
- Theo Riddick
- Charles Sims
Martin, Vereen and Bush are all guys who jump out at me as being viable substitutes during Bell’s suspension.
Conclusion on Le’Veon Bell’s Outlook 2015 Fantasy Football Outlook
Even if Le’Veon Bell suspension reduced to 2 games, he is not the No. 1 overall pick. One game, okay, but nothing more #fantasyfootball
— Jake Ciely (@allinkid) April 9, 2015
Even with how much value Bell brings to the table when he is on the field, I can’t see myself drafting a running back who would have a very difficult chance at finishing as the highest-scoring running back in 2015 Fantasy Football leagues. In the past two seasons, the difference between the highest-scoring back and the third-highest scoring back in standard scoring leagues has been an average of 36.5 points. If the data from Fabiano suggests that it is nearly impossible for Bell to finish in the top three, then why does he deserve the first pick in the draft?
You have to decide what’s best for your team, but for me personally, I think it makes more sense to draft Lacy or Charles than it does to draft Bell. If he’s not on the field, he can’t score your team points.