(Photo by The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
With fantasy drafts skyrocketing as final NFL rosters are being made, the typical fake smart person passed off as an expert is telling you whom to draft and avoid. The usual suspects like Adrian Peterson and Odell Beckham Jr. are in no need of “expert analysis” as you could pick them in your sleep.
Sadly, the suspects under drug-related suspension will not seem to go away as, apparently, it is still expert-recommended to draft them.
One of those suspended players is Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell, and even though the fourth-year veteran will start the regular season by serving a three-game suspension, he is still being recommended by the people that know more about fantasy than anybody. One of these alleged experts is ESPN’s Matthew Berry as he ranked Bell as his eighth best player, fourth among running backs. Sure, his projected end-of-season cumulative total looks great as his production shows that he is the best line-of-scrimmage tailback in the NFL.
Except, when the cumulative stats include playoffs, typically in Weeks 15 and 16, drafting an initially absent Bell within the first six rounds is a stupid idea. It is easier to make the playoffs when you start the season at records like 2-0, 1-1, or 1-0-1, and the vast majority of losers at season’s ends have .500 or worse records by the middle of the season because they did not create rosters that outscore their opponents consistently.
You cannot win when your team has 90 while your opponent has 100, and you cannot have more points when Bell’s 2015 average of 14.5 is gone. You will lose, and even if he averages 14.5 points per game, those 14.5 points can be replaced in multiple scenarios. For example, if you have to score 100 points per game, Bell’s 14.5 can be matched or exceeded by a wide receiver. Julio Jones, Antonio Brown, and Odell Beckham Jr. all averaged more than Bell in 2015.
If that is impossible, you will have to pair two players up to make up for Bell and another player’s total. Most of the highest scoring football players in fantasy are quarterbacks, and many of the higher scoring quarterbacks are available between the fifth and eighth rounds. Instead of drafting Bell and pairing him with a quarterback that averages at least 19 points (i.e. Aaron Rodgers or Andrew Luck), you are better off drafting a quarterback like Russell Wilson (21.5 PPG in standardized leagues*) and pairing him up with a back like Mark Ingram (12.5 PPG in standardized leagues*).
Lastly, do not even dare to think about the “fake genius” strategy of drafting a running back’s backup. The production is almost never the same or greater, and if this were such a good idea, everyone would be doing it. Most players draft wide receivers and running backs within the first four rounds because it is proven to work, and there are better starting running backs as fantasy reserves as enough fantasy contestants might be scarred from making substitutions like replacing an injured Arian Foster with Alfred Blue.
To even give a crap about Bell, who is also coming off what was supposed to be a fourteen-game season by playing just six games, is self-inflicting. When his first two seasons showed that his average touches (22.8) were two more than DeMarco Murray’s average (20.8) over his first four years, it is better to stay away from him.
Besides, when you worry about the individual player more than your team’s production, your team will likely lose. There are waiver wire pickups that could increase your team’s scoring total, and remember that the fantasy season is already a crapshoot. You have to have more points than the team regardless, and when red flags of a suspension and an injury from last year increase Bell’s odds of being absent, having actual present players may not be all that bad.