Le’Veon Bell missed the first three games of his rookie season with a foot injury, but he stepped right into a starting role for the Pittsburgh Steelers and fantasy football owners reaped significant rewards. His yards per-carry average (3.5) does not leap off the page, but otherwise Bell’s workload (18.8 carries per game), scoring (eight rushing touchdowns) and all-around production (45 receptions for 399 yards; 8.9 yards per catch) were all notable.
Bell was heavily used in the red zone last season, with 48 carries and 13 targets in that area of the field both ranking third among running backs. He may have finished atop both lists in 2013 if not for the three missed games, and even with the signing of LeGarrette Blount the Steelers are sure to continue leaning on Bell heavily this year.
His 300-carry pace from last season may not be repeated with Blount around, a full 16-game slate puts Bell in line for well over 300 touches as a three-down workhorse for the Steelers. Blount has just 23 career receptions, so he is no threat to Bell’s passing game role and 50-plus catches is well within reach.
Bell is a notch below the elite fantasy running backs right now, primarily due to some durability concerns and the potential Blount eats into his workload more than I expect. But with the potential to finish as a top-five scorer at the position this year, particularly in PPR leagues, Bell’s current average draft position (18th overall, via Fantasy Pros.com) makes him a relative value for owners that wind up without a running back in the first round of drafts.