Joique Bell was 30th in the entire NFL in carries last year, but finished as a top-17 fantasy football running back.
It’s true. Bell, even playing behind Reggie Bush, was incredibly productive, benefiting from receptions and touchdowns. It was the second straight year where Bell hauled in over 50 passes, and his eight rushing touchdowns were a pleasant surprise, too. At the moment, Bell is one of the better values in fantasy football, and he should be in line for another nice campaign.
New offensive coordinator Scott Lombardi stated that the Lions backfield will be a committee or split, and that both backs will be very effective. No kidding. Bell has been effective as a backup, and assuming he’ll see an uptick in usage, the sky is the limit. Last year, Bell averaged 38.9 snaps per game, compared to Bush’s 43.6, but still managed to produce more fantasy points per touch. The Lions also gave him the ball when they were up close, seeing 29 red zone looks, which were more than the likes of Calvin Johnson. I think they want him as the goal line back, and considering the Lions have ranked inside the top-10 in red zone scoring attempts per game in each of the last three seasons, there should be plenty of chances for him. Also, Bush hasn’t exactly been sipping out of the fountain of health, missing playing a full 16 games just twice.
Obviously, it would be a bit more appealing if Bell was the featured back in the offense. Also, there will be some games where if Bell isn’t catching passes, he may be posting a rather ugly stat line for fantasy owners. And, for whatever it’s worth, the team stated they want to use second-year back Theo Riddick more in 2014, which could cut into some of Bell’s total touches.
I honestly don’t see a ton of negatives in drafting Bell in fantasy. First of all, you can get him in the 6th round right now, while Bush is going in the second or third. The guys will have similar numbers at season’s end, so Bell should be your guy. If he finished inside the top-20 among rushers in a bit of a limited role last year, I can’t wait to see what he can do with more work heading his way. With his combination of pass-catching ability and red zone prowess, we could be looking at a sneaky top-12 back.
Bye Week: 9
Projected Round: 6th
Auction Value: $9 (via ESPN)