Analyzing Le’Veon Bell is relatively easy. He is good. Like, really good. The tricky part with Bell this year is not if you draft him, but where do you draft him? Does Bell still have merit being selected number one overall, even though he is facing a three game suspension? I believe you can make a strong case for taking Le’Veon number one this year. I also believe waiting Bell out into the middle of the first round is the wiser approach. Either way, you are drafting an exceptional talent.
Le’Veon Bell is trying to appeal his three game suspension but has yet to make any progress in a timetable for a hearing. This is leaving fantasy owners in a tough situation come draft day. I would advise you to go into the draft expecting the three game suspension, while anything reduced is extra gravy. If a recent report of the suspension potentially being reduced ends up being a reality, the questions about Bell would naturally fade away and could make him the top pick in fantasy football drafts.
Bell had a season for the ages last year, racking up 2,215 all purpose yards with 11 total touchdowns and zero fumbles. Le’Veon Bell is the most versatile running back in the NFL. I have no problem recommending Bell to go number one if you hold that draft pick. Bell is a first round talent in all formats this year.
However, let’s dissect the season Le’Veon had last year. Bell only went over 100 rushing yards once at home and had a season low 20 rushing yards at home, while going over 100 yards rushing in three games on the road. Le’Veon only had two games with multiple rushing touchdowns, both also being on the road. In total, Bell piled up 323 more rushing yards on the road and five touchdowns, versus his three touchdowns playing at Heinz Field. On the flip side, he racked up 274 more receiving yards at home and two touchdowns versus one receiving touchdown on the road. When Bell returns to action (if the three game ban sticks) he will have seven home games and six on the road.
My biggest concern for Bell this year will be his usage rate. All of his eight rushing touchdowns came in six games when he received at least 20 rushing attempts. For all reasonable purposes Bell should average around twenty carries when he returns to action. In a PPR format the five to six receptions a game really add up and Bell has more merit going number one in PPR leagues.
Another reason to shy away from Bell this year is the fact Ben Roethlisberger is going to put up big numbers. Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant will take touches and touchdowns away from Bell. The question is just how many, and will missing three games be three too many weeks of treading water without your first round draft pick.
Bell also plays in a brutal division with three very good defenses in the Browns, Bengals and Ravens. They account for six of his games on the year and while they’re no certainty to shut him down, six extra difficult matchups can be scary for fantasy owners considering strength of schedule.
One other red flag? Bell’s knee. Even though Bell is supposedly healthy for Pittsburgh’s training camp, he has continued to say he’s still not 100%. Bell has said “it’s close”, but his knee not being up to snuff has to be a mild concern. Then again, if his suspension sticks, Bell could use the first few weeks to simply get even healthier.
All in all, Le’Veon Bell is a great talent and the reasons against taking him first overall (or at least in round one) aren’t good enough. If you find yourself with the number one draft pick, don’t shy away from taking Bell number one overall. Bell will put up big numbers and will be a weekly contributor in the Steelers’ high-powered offense this year.