Don't have an account?
Join the Best Live Fantasy Chat Community!

Lost password? [X]

Receive free daily analysis:


Already have an account? Log in here.


Forgot Password


Le'Veon Bell - Still a Fantasy First-Rounder?

We are largely in uncharted territory when it comes to Le'Veon Bell. If there has been a previous instance of an elite player sitting out a full season and changing teams, I'm not aware of it.

We last saw Bell play football in 2017. As a Steeler, Bell benefited from one of the league's best offensive lines, a top quarterback, and an overall excellent offense. After not playing for the entirety of 2018, we have to try and figure out the combined impact of a new team and not playing for a full season.

He is established as an elite running back, is just 27 years old, and should be fresh after a year-long hiatus. But does he warrant a first-round pick in 2019?

Editor's Note: Get any rest-of-season NFL Premium Pass for 50% off. Our exclusive DFS Tools, Lineup Optimizer and Premium DFS Research through the Super Bowl. Sign Up Now!


Plenty of Pros

In 2017, Bell led the NFL with 406 touches. Back in 2016, although playing in just 12 games, Bell actually averaged more fantasy points per game than David Johnson. We have never known a Le'Veon Bell that was anything other than an elite fantasy asset.

One aspect of Bell's game that we should not worry about is his opportunity. The Jets have very little behind Bell on the depth chart and, even so, Bell is far too talented to share a backfield. 400 touches is certainly within his range of outcomes. Even with massive volume, it is foolish to think that Bell's ceiling, or even his expected performance, is anywhere close to what it was in Pittsburgh.

Bell's patient running style relies on an offensive line opening up holes allowing him to shoot through them. In 2018, the Jets offensive line ranked dead last in adjusted line yards and stuff percentage. While it is reasonable to expect an improvement, the Jets offensive line still projects to fall in the lower third of the league. Will Bell's running style work behind a weak offensive line? If not, will Bell be able to modify his game to deal with an offensive line that can't block? These are questions that I do not have the answer to. If I did, there wouldn't be a question over whether Bell is still worth a first round pick in fantasy - we would know for sure one way or the other.

I can confidently say that I do not think Bell's talent has gone anywhere. I also think that 100+ targets is likely. Bell's floor is probably 2018 David Johnson. His ceiling is the problem. Sam Darnold is not Ben Roethlisberger and the Jets passing game does not pose quite the threat the Steelers did, which helped open up the run (because it has been proven that the passing game opens up the run, not the other way around). That certainly will cap Bell's touchdown upside, but the lower caliber passing game also could mean more targets for Bell.

Last season, Elijah McGuire was the best fantasy running back on the Jets, averaging 11.3 ppg. In order for Bell to be worth a first-round pick, we need to be able to reasonably project approximately 17 ppg (last season eight running backs averaged over 20 ppg, which is the most since 2012, which is as far back as I checked and unlikely to happen again). Assuming a full 16 games, we need to get Bell to 272 fantasy points. Can we do it?


Path to RB1

Last season, the Jets scored 11 rushing touchdowns. I do not think it is fair to give all 11 of those to Bell. I think eight is a much more realistic number. We can tack on two receiving touchdowns. The Jets rushed for 1,622 yards. I don't feel comfortable giving Bell more than 1,100 of those and even that feels high. Jets running backs had a total of 599 receiving yards on 68 total receptions. It is exceedingly difficult to project Bell's receiving totals. He's obviously a far better receiver than the Jets' medley of running backs in 2018 and he will have more pass plays designed for him, but defenses also know this and will account for this.

Over his career, Bell has averaged five receptions per game, and that was on a team that consistently had elite receiving options. I'm okay with giving Bell 80 receptions at seven yards per reception (which is lower than his career average of 8.5). So we've got him at 1660 total yards, 80 receptions, and 10 touchdowns. That totals 306 fantasy points or 19.1 ppg. If Bell can achieve the above, he will be well worth a late first round pick.

My concern is that I think what I just projected is just about Bell's ceiling. Even if Darnold takes an expected step forward, the Jets offensive line would need to improve to at least average for Bell to meet or exceed my projections. If Darnold does not improve and, more importantly, if the Jets offensive line remains bad, Bell could very well end up struggling to reach 1000 rushing yards with his yards per reception dropping even lower than I projected, resulting in something like 400 receiving yards to go along with a total of just six touchdowns. Either way, Bell is going to need to rack up the receptions to remain an RB1.



Bell's ceiling is a mid RB1. His volume is so secure that his floor is a high RB2. Bell does not have the upside to be a true game-changer like 2016 DJ, 2017 Todd Gurley, or 2018 Christian McCaffrey. However, Bell is a safe pick at the back end of the first round and unlikely to be the type of first-round landmine that derails your season. I count eight players I would definitely take over Bell: Saquon Barkley, Ezekiel Elliott, Christian McCaffrey, Alvin Kamara, David Johnson, Melvin Gordon, Davante Adams, DeAndre Hopkins. After these guys, if you want to make Bell your selection, feel free to do so.

In conclusion, Bell is still worthy of a first-round selection, but he is certainly not a lock to be taken there, nor should you feel bad if you choose to pass on him in favor of Joe Mixon, James Conner, Julio Jones, Odell Beckham, JuJu Smith-Schuster, or Michael Thomas, to name a few.


More Fantasy Football Analysis

More Recent Articles


2020 Outfield Rankings - H2H Points Leagues

We've been breaking down rankings for points leagues over the last couple of weeks in order to prepare fantasy owners for draft day. To check out previous analysis articles by position, click the following links: first base, second base, third base, shortstop, catcher, starting pitcher, relief pitcher. Outfield is obviously the deepest of all positions... Read More

ADP Cost Analysis - Luis Robert vs Kyle Tucker

With spring training games officially underway, excitement around the fantasy baseball season simultaneously hits a new peak. As batting orders begin to map out and pitching rotations start to take shape, a lot of movement happens on ADP lists. Prospects tend to gain the most helium around this time of year because we have a... Read More

2020 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers - Josh Lindblom

Josh Lindblom began his professional baseball career at 21-years-old in the Dodgers’ minor league system more than a decade ago, but the pitcher was never able to gain a foothold in the major leagues. Over his career so far, Lindblom has thrown 147 major league innings to go along with 497.1 minor league innings, owning... Read More

Four More Sleeper Prospects for 2020 Redraft Leagues

MLB Spring Training is here. The sights and sounds of baseball are everywhere. That also means fantasy baseball season is just around the corner. And with that comes hundreds of minor league players with dreams of breaking into the major leagues during the coming season. Many will. But others will not. Last week, we took... Read More

2020 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers – Jo Adell

The most coveted type of player in fantasy baseball is the batter who can hit home runs, steal bases and hit for contact. Stolen bases are harder to find, as more big-league teams are opting to take a cautious approach to baserunning. Additionally, batting average has declined because hitters are striking out more often, as... Read More

ADP Cost Analysis - Gleyber Torres vs. Corey Seager

Fantasy baseball players acquire draft position through osmosis. The more drafts that take place, the larger sample we gain of how owners of all experience levels feel about someone. Granted, inexperienced players often rely on rankings from experts, which goes to form ADP into something resembling common rankings, but the outcome is unimpeachable, collected data... Read More

ADP Cost Analysis – Aaron Nola vs Lance Lynn

With fantasy baseball draft season in full swing, those of us who partake in this joyous game are now looking through as much draft data as possible in a bid to find players we love who have lower average draft positions (ADP) than we believe they should. All this to eke out as much draft... Read More

2020 Regression Candidates: Breakout Outfielders

Every season in MLB you can count on the fact that you will have breakout performances from players. Sometimes these breakout performances can be seen coming a mile away and sometimes they catch you entirely by surprise. Regardless of which type of breakout we see, you will almost always have to pay up for that... Read More

Bases Loaded Podcast - Quality Start Episode 1

Mike Kurland (@Mike_Kurland) and Matt Williams (@MattWi77iams) of the Turn Two Podcast come together for a new co-pod series called "Quality Start". This will be a joint effort and episodes will be found on Bases Loaded as well as the Turn Two Podcast. We are joined by Jorge Montanez (@Roto_Nino) as well for this one.... Read More

2020 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers - Adrian Houser

In life, there seem to be two kinds of people, the flashy and the boring. “Flashy” people like high-end materialistic things such as nice clothing or an expensive car. "Boring” people prefer the simpler things in life like spending time with their loved ones. This seems to be true when it comes to fantasy baseball,... Read More

Taking Out the Trash: Pitchers Who Should Junk Their Worst Pitch

Pitch mix changes can make or break a player’s season. That obviously goes for fantasy value as well as real-life. We've already seen how throwing an effective pitch more often could make a huge improvement a la Patrick Corbin. Sometimes pitchers just need to eliminate a pitch to see their numbers improve. Consider the following: Mitch... Read More

ADP Showdown – Trevor Story vs. Trea Turner

Pitchers and catchers have officially reported and position player workouts are getting underway, which means baseball season is officially upon us! Maybe you haven’t started prepping for your drafts, but fortunately for you, there have already been plenty of drafts, which means that fantasy players out there have already started dealing with tough draft position... Read More

Using Sabermetrics for Fantasy Baseball: Pitcher Statcast

Statcast metrics such as Barrels and Brls/BBE are great ways to evaluate a batter's performance, so it is only natural to assume that the metrics would be predictive for pitchers as well. As much as batters want to hit a Barrel every time, pitchers want to avoid them at all costs. Yet there is evidence... Read More

2020 Fantasy Baseball Staff Rankings

Below you will find RotoBaller's 2020 fantasy baseball rankings, tiers and auction dollar values for the 2020 MLB season. Our Ranking Wizard displays our staff's rankings for various league formats, all in one easy place. Here's what you'll find: Mixed, Head-to-Head, Points, AL/NL Only, Two-Catcher Top 2020 prospects, Dynasty leagues, Keeper values Export the rankings easily... Read More

Bases Loaded Podcast - All Things Fantasy Baseball w/ Nick Pollack (@PitcherList)

Mike Kurland (@Mike_Kurland) is  joined by Nick Pollack (@PitcherList) and they discuss all things fantasy baseball! Subscribe to the Bases Loaded podcast, part of RotoBaller Radio's Podcast Network. Like and Subscribe to the RotoBaller channel on Youtube to get all our latest podcasts and catch us on iTunes and BlogTalkRadio as well! Be sure to also tune... Read More