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Why Le’Veon Bell is Your Top Pick in 2016

Every year we have a debate as to who the top pick in fantasy drafts should be. I’ve already told you that I think it should be a running back, but which one is best? I’m here to tell you that the top fantasy RB this year is (still) Le’Veon Bell. In fact, I don’t even think it’s close.

Workload

Bell is routinely one of the most used RBs in the entire NFL. Take a look at his numbers in the Career Graphs App.

Bell CG Work

Bell has received at least 69 percent of Steeler rush attempts and 12 percent of targets in every season he has been in the league. And while people may worry about decline in touches with DeAngelo Williams present, you’ll note that he actually had his highest market share of rush attempts last season, albeit with a small number of games. Now take a look at his career 16 game average in touches.

YearGamesRushRec
Season1629669
2015611324
20141629083
20131324445

That’s right, Bell’s touch average for his career gives him almost 300 carries, and 365 total touches. Here are all of the RBs who have hit a 365 touch pace in the past three seasons.

2015: Bell
2014: Bell, DeMarco Murray, Matt Forte, Adrian Peterson, Arian Foster
2013: Doug Martin, LeSean McCoy

Seven different RBs have hit this marker over the past three seasons, with Bell being the only repeat name on the list. The point here is that Bell is a proven workhorse, and that cannot really be disputed. However…

Our Projection is Egregious…And Bell is Still First

When I started this piece, I was going to just mention that Bell was the top RB in our projections for the 2016 season…but then I noticed our current touch projection for Bell.

PLAYERTeamFP.RANKFPRushRecTouches
Bell, Le'Veon PIT RBPIT1276.2258.9656.47315.43

What? 315 touches? The lowest 16-game pace of touches for Bell is 356, 40 less touches than we are currently projecting for him. We’re projecting him for less touches than Lamar Miller! A player whose career high in touches is 254!

I suppose we could be trying to account for some kind of injury, but this really shows the kind of ridiculous upside Bell has. He’s first in our projections, and if Bell plays all 16 games, he probably records many, many more touches than we have him for, which would just increase his already top-notch scoring.

In fact, since fantasy is a weekly game, I would probably prioritize his absurd week-to-week upside over someone who may be more durable, but projects for less work or has a wider range of outcomes. When Bell is on the field, he’s the focal point for Pittsburgh. That can’t really be said for anyone else as both a rusher and receiver.

No Martavis Bryant

Another reason I love Bell this year is the absence of Martavis Bryant.

Bell Splits Tavis

When Bryant has not been available for the Steelers the last two seasons, they have had to rely even more on Bell. He has more touches and more yards when Bryant is out. In fact, the only reason he has more fantasy points with Bryant in is the uptick in TDs, specifically as a receiver. With TDs being much higher variance than touches and yards, I don’t feel compelled to weigh them as heavily. I’ll take my additional touches and yards and run with them.

Health

The obvious elephant in the room with respect to Bell is that he is coming off of an injury. This is what injury expert Will Carroll had to say in my recent interview with him about the subject.

“That said, as we get into training camp, we’re going to be able to see him, and if he’s running and cutting, doing all of those things, hey that’s a good sign. It’s an unknown, so it could go either way. I call this a binary situation. Right now, we have no idea and we have to assume the worst. That said, the minute we see him do it, you can kind of step away from it. PCL repairs do hold up well, we just have no information to work on for this specific player.”

It sounds to me like we have reason to be worried about Bell…until we don’t. The moment we get to see him play football this summer, if he looks like himself, we can calm ourselves.1 When exactly we’ll know is up in the air, but it would certainly be before the season.

In that regard, perhaps Bell is a “better” pick towards the end of the summer when we have more information on him, but that also will probably come at a higher price. I am personally taking the “innocent until proven guilty” approach, in that I am treating him like the stud I believe he is until he shows me otherwise.

Conclusion

Bell has been one of the best RBs in the game since he first entered the league in 2013. There is no RB in the entire league that boasts his proven workhorse status and fantastic production. His weekly upside has to make him the top RB in drafts this year and, for me, the first overall pick.

  1. And of course, if he looks like a disaster we would do the opposite.  (back)
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