I assume the regular readers are pretty well aware that I’m not a fantasy football guy. It doesn’t matter the reasons; the point is that it’s not really something I follow. So I pose to you the following question: should the Pittsburgh Steelers’ running back Le’Veon Bell still be the first-overall pick in fantasy drafts for the 2018 season? Why or why not?
I was recently taking a look at a list of the top 200 fantasy players from the league’s website—actually, several different analysts posted their own lists. Three of them had Bell as the top player in the draft, while another had him second to Todd Gurley. There was one outlier who had him eighth.
So which is closer to where he will actually rank statistically from a fantasy perspective: the consensus, or the outlier? Fantasy-savvy Steelers fans should be best-informed to answer this question given their intimate knowledge of Bell’s situation.
I do think it’s still a bit murky because we don’t currently know how Bell’s contract situation is going to play out. We’re generally working under the assumption that a long-term deal is not going to get done, and as a result of that we’re projecting that he won’t show up until a week before the season starts, as he basically confirmed on his own.
We saw how that time away from the team in all likelihood greatly contributed to a slow start this season. How big is a slow start to fantasy football leagues? How much would that lower a player’s value in the draft rankings?
Another question is this: David Johnson is coming back after an injury last year. Do you trust him? He proved to be an elite scorer in 2016. Was that a flash in the pan? If not, is he a better option than Johnson? Do you think Gurley will build off of what he did last season?
I think the overriding question is this: will Bell still see the same sort of workload this season that he did a year ago, during which he touched the ball over 400 times? I’m honestly inclined to think not, and not just because history is against the idea that he is going to stay healthy.
For one thing, Ben Roethlisberger and the passing game appeared to get back on track during the second half of last season, and I think that is going to result in a higher percentage of passes being thrown. The introduction full-time of a solid tight end passing option in Vance McDonald is also going to eat into Bell’s touches through the air, which does account for a substantial share of his total touches.
How about this: who is going to be the better fantasy value this season, if Bell is not at the top: Bell or Antonio Brown? Everybody has Brown going in the top five, and as the top non-running back. Just some questions for the fantasy aficionados to be contemplating way too early.