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Fantasy Football: Draft Le’Veon Bell With Caution In 2014

Le'Veon Bell Pittsburgh Steelers

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Caveat emptor is Latin for “buyer beware”. Keep that in mind as you’re thinking about drafting Le’Veon Bell this coming August.

Coming out of Michigan State, the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted Bell in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft. He had an excellent rookie season, finishing as the 15th-ranked RB in standard scoring leagues. Many mock drafts currently place his ADP for next season in the late-first to mid-second round. But is he worth that expensive price tag?

Let’s compare Bell to some other current RBs in the NFL. First, we’ll take a quick look at Bell’s 2013 rookie season compared to Trent Richardson’s 2012 rookie season.

Le’Veon Bell Trent Richardson
Carries: 244 Carries: 267
Rushing Yards: 860 Rushing Yards: 950
Avg Yards Per Carry: 3.5 Avg Yards Per Carry: 3.6
Receptions: 45 Receptions: 51
Receiving Yards: 399 Receiving Yards: 367
Avg Yards Per Catch: 8.9 Avg Yards Per Catch: 7.2

 

As you can see, their rushing statistics are nearly identical. The only real difference is that Richardson had 23 more carries as Bell only played 13 games last season due to his foot injury. Scary, isn’t it? Especially because we all know how Richardson did during his second season …

Let’s take another look at Bell’s statistics, this time comparing his 2013 season to that of another big-name RB, Maurice Jones-Drew.

Le’Veon Bell Maurice Jones-Drew
Carries: 244 Carries: 234
Rushing Yards: 860 Rushing Yards: 803
Avg Yards Per Carry: 3.5 Avg Yards Per Carry: 3.4
Receptions: 45 Receptions: 43
Receiving Yards: 399 Receiving Yards: 314
Avg Yards Per Catch: 8.9 Avg Yards Per Catch: 7.3

 

Again, these are very similar statistics, but keep in mind that the Steelers’ offensive line ranked 15th last year while the Jacksonville Jaguars were ranked 31st. What I’m trying to say here is that while Bell is talented by NFL standards, he is not necessarily an elite fantasy RB.

Now, that certainly doesn’t mean that Bell will have a horrendous season this coming year. In fact, his statistics should improve given that the Steelers hired Mike Munchak as their new offensive line coach back in January. The Steelers will also have their Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey back, having missed most of 2013 from tearing his ACL and MCL.

There are even rumors that Pittsburgh is interested in left tackle Taylor Lewan out of the University of Michigan for the 2014 NFL Draft to shore up their offensive line. All of these factors should help out Bell.

It’s possible, even likely, that Bell should be able to improve upon his 2013 performance. He has the opportunity to finish as a top-10 RB if he plays all 16 games. But there’s also a chance that he regresses and finishes outside the top 20 RBs, especially if the Steelers utilize newly signed LeGarrette Blount for goal-line carries.

Personally, I wouldn’t draft Bell until the third round, but he won’t last that long in most redraft leagues. Whether or not you draft him this coming season all depends on the risk you’re willing to take. Just know what you’re getting into if you decide to take a chance on Bell in the first two rounds.

Meng Song is a writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @ms0ng, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your Google network.