Rookie running backs highlight the next edition of Fantasy Feud.
Both of these guys were drafted by teams that will allow them to earn a starting job right out of the gate. With that being said, opportunity is key for fantasy success, and that is exactly what these two guys have. Le’Veon Bell is apart of the Steelers, who figure to be a run heavy offense. Meanwhile, Eddie Lacy is on the Packers, who are quite the opposite. Anyway, which would you prefer for your fantasy team?
Making the case for Bell
He had to have been the first running back off of the board for a reason, right? Bell lands in an enticing environment to become fantasy relevant. The Steelers like to run the football, especially up close. Over the past three seasons, they rank 5th in rushes when inside the three yard line. I’m sure Pittsburgh isn’t sold on Jonathan Dwyer or Issac Redman as every down back, so Bell has the chance to be their guy. However, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, he won’t be on the field unless he can show up in pass protection. I think he is their Week 1 starter, but until he proves he can pass protect, he’ll lose third down work. In three seasons in college, Bell was a workhorse, rushing for 3,346 yards and 33 scores. I feel like he has the tools to be an every down back. More of a downhill runner at 6’1″, 240 lbs, Bell can provide power and some nimbleness. He’s also a strong pass catcher, something that he may be doing a lot in Todd Haley’s style of offense. With no Mike Wallace and an ailing Heath Miller, this team really doesn’t have a lot of touchdown threats in the passing game. I think Bell is good enough between the holes to score around eight rushing touchdowns because former Steeler Rashard Mendenhall had touchdown totals of seven, 13 and nine over the course of his last three healthy seasons. Bell is probably a more talented rusher than Mendenhall. I have Bell as my number 24 overall rusher, second among rookies.
Making the case for Lacy
For a minute during the draft, many people in the fantasy community had Lacy as their number one rookie back. Then, however, Green Bay selected Johnathan Franklin, which could ensure a running back headache. I think Lacy is the clear better back here, but he will have to compete for the starting job. Assuming he gets it, which I believe he will at first, Lacy could be a guy with serious touchdown potential. Green Bay is one of the most explosive offenses in football and will be in the red zone a ton. However, will they run it? Last season, the Packers scored just nine rushing touchdowns, two of which were compliments of Aaron Rodgers, while another was John Kuhn. Perhaps the addition of a big, bruising back like Lacy changes that, but considering the Packers haven’t had a fantasy relevant back since Ryan Grant of 2009, it’s hard to be convinced. One would think that they cannot ignore a powering back like Lacy at the goal line, but we’ll see. If they do give him the ball in that situation, Lacy could score upwards to 10 rushing touchdowns alongside that offense. There are some durability issues here, as Lacy has dealt with a toe issue. However, as long as he’s healthy, Lacy has the power and underrated elusiveness to thrive inside the five. I’m still not sold that he gets enough looks inside the 20’s to make him a top-20 fantasy rusher, but the touchdowns could keep him relevant.
When you are choosing between these two, it pretty much comes down to who is going to score more touchdowns. As of right now, neither have a ton of yardage upside, as neither are projected to rush for 1,000 yards. However, if I had to pick one to outperform the other, it would probably be Lacy. I like the offense better, and while both are the same build, Lacy runs more like a power back, while Bell often runs smaller than he actually is. I also like Lacy’s offense and offensive line much better than that of Pittsburgh’s, which should help him in the long run.
Adam Pfeifer is a featured fantasy sports columnist for Rant Sports.
You can follow him on Twitter @aPfeiferRS.