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A Look at Le'Veon Bell's Value

Le'Veon Bell continues to be the highest priced running back across the industry, despite the fact that he has yet to even sniff a 3x multiple on his salary in the first three weeks. Will you be playing Bell in your GPP's this week? If not, give us an example of a running back you will have major exposure to in week 4. 

BJ VanderWoude: Le'Veon Bell continues to be the highest priced running back across the industry, despite the fact that he has yet to even sniff a 3x multiple on his salary in the first three weeks. Will you be playing Bell in your GPP's this week? If not, give us an example of a running back you'll have heavy exposure to in week 4.

James Brimacombe: It is hard to find a better game to watch than that of the division rival Pittsburgh Steelers against the Baltimore Ravens. LeVeon Bell has to be on your radar this week as his price remains as low as it has been the past two years in the industry. The matchup might not be the greatest but this divisional game is one of the biggest of the season for the Steelers. In Week 16 last year Bell ran 20 times for 122 yards and a touchdown along with 3 catches for 15 yards and another touchdown against the Ravens. The Steelers passing game always takes a hit on the road with Ben Roethlisberger playing better at home so I am looking to the Steelers getting the ball in Bell’s hands more to help control the game early but also to grind it out late if they are ahead. Even if the Steelers are behind in the game, Bell usually collects plenty of fantasy points catching short passes from Roethlisberger.

Dan Hindery: As long as Bell continues to see a huge workload (42 carries and 10 receptions over the past two weeks), I will continue to have some GPP exposure to him. He put up 137 yards and 2 touchdowns the last time he faced Baltimore so there is clear upside there. That performance was a bit of an outlier however as this Steelers-Ravens series has usually been slow and low scoring. In short, I will have some Bell this weekend but he won’t be anywhere near the top of my ownership list at the position.

Before Kareem Hunt and Tarik Cohen exploded onto the scene, this rookie running back class was viewed as having a “Big 4” of Leonard Fournette, Christian McCaffrey, Dalvin Cook and Joe Mixon. I like all four this weekend and each will likely be amongst my highest-owned players in GPPs.

Leonard Fournette has scored in each of his first three NFL games. He faces the New York Jets who proved in Week 3 that they aren’t complete pushovers. But this is still a defense we want to target this year.

Christian McCaffrey caught 9 passes for 101 yards on Sunday. He travels to New England where the game script should be favorable for him to again see a bunch of work as a pass catcher.
Dalvin Cook has quietly emerged as one of the more consistent workhorse backs in the league. He is averaging over 20 carries and 3.3 receptions per game. Cook is at home facing a Detroit defense that just gave up 227 yards to Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman.
Joe Mixon travels to Cleveland to face a Browns run defense that the Bengals have had a lot of success against. In two meetings last season, Cincinnati running backs rushed for 427 yards and added another 78 yards as receivers. The Bengals finally unleashed Mixon against Green Bay in Week 3, feeding him 21 touches. He totaled 101 yards and should be in line for another 100-yard day against Cleveland.

John Mamula: I'm off of Bell until the Steelers offensive line gets healthy and in-sync. Right offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert was inactive last week due to a hamstring injury and left offensive guard Ramon Foster exited mid first quarter with a left arm injury. Left tackle Alejandro Villanueva has underperformed thus far. As a result, the Steelers offensive line is struggling to open holes for Bell to gain chunks of yardage. A matchup against Baltimore will not help the situation. The Ravens come home after being embarrassed 44-7 across the pond. Expect a classic low-scoring Steelers-Ravens game with an average day for Bell.

Prediction: Steelers 17-13. Bell 18 rushes for 68 yards with five receptions for 32 yards

A running back that I expect to have major exposure to is Joe Mixon, who is underpriced based on his current role as the main running back. Last week, Mixon received 21 touches as compared to eight touches by Jeremy Hill and five touches by Giovani Bernard. New Bengals offensive coordinator will continue to make an effort to put the ball in the hands of his playmakers A.J. Green and Joe Mixon. With Tyler Eifert expected to miss multiple weeks, both Green and Mixon have an opportunity to shine this week versus the Browns. Jump on Mixon before his price skyrockets over the next couple of weeks.

Prediction: Joe Mixon: 22 rushes for 118 yards one touchdown, four receptions for 31 yards.

Justin Bonnema: You can’t ignore the number of touches Bell gets, so I’ll definitely build some lineups around him. But overall, I will have less exposure than the crowd. The Steelers’ offense just hasn’t found a groove yet, and a road trip to Baltimore isn’t a promising way to find that groove. The Ravens have shown to be vulnerable on the ground, particularly to receiving backs (sixth in yards allowed and 12.2 yards per reception) but I’m not expecting a ton of points in this game. And in the same price range, I’d rather have Elliott, who, as mentioned above, has a great matchup at home in a game that should easily push the over.


And for much cheaper, I love Dalvin Cook who gets Detroit at home. He’ll be popular but I don’t care. We saw what Devonta Freeman did to their defensive front last week (though, some of that was due to linebacker Jarrad Davis being inactive). I expect Cook to turn in a similar performance, even if the Lions get Davis back from injury.

Phil Alexander: I've been overweight on Bell in each of the first three weeks, which obviously hasn't done me any favors. This week, I'll probably have less than the field but it has nothing to do with recency bias. Baltimore has a stingy rush defense, and they should be motivated to get back on track at home against a division rival after getting their doors blown off by the Jaguars in London last week. If it hadn't been for Corey Grant breaking a 50-yard run on a fake punt in Week 3, the Ravens would still not have allowed an opposing rusher to exceed 60 rushing yards in a game this season. Bell has only managed 3.6 yards per attempt against the less intimidating rush defenses of the Browns, Vikings, and Bears.

Don't get me wrong -- Bell's ceiling remains as high as any player's on the slate. This just doesn't have the makings of one of his blow-up games. In his only meeting with the Ravens last year (also on the road), Bell was held to a 14-32-0 rushing line. He's a low-exposure play for me in terms of both percent of line-ups I put him in and buy-in level.

If I'm spending into Bell's range at running back, I'd prefer Ezekiel Elliott. He has the matchup (Rams have allowed second-most fantasy points per game to opposing running backs), game script (Dallas is favored by eight points at home with an implied total of 27.75 points), and usage in his favor (22.3 total touches per game is third-most in the NFL).

Justin Howe: Bell is always an enticing GPP play, even at this bloated salary. Few backs can touch his ceiling, and a 30-point week that crushes tournament value is still within his range of outcomes. But it's not especially likely anymore - and the chances are generally not worth a slate-high salary stab - for two reasons. First, his receiving production has taken a noticeable dip this season, which is worrisome; big receiving days are a major way bell cow running backs crank out massive lines. Bell has remained heavily involved in the Pittsburgh passing game, but with Eli Rogers and rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster eating up snaps in the slot, he isn't getting the wide receiver snaps he drew last season. So, while he's an all-time great receiver out of the backfield, he loses some of that 7- and 8-catch ceiling he boasted last year.

It also needs to be noted that, considering his offense and the stranglehold he has on it, he's not a major touchdown threat when compared to other elite backs. The Steelers throw a lot on the goal line, and as a result, Bell has produced just 15 touchdowns over his last 24 games (playoffs included). Without that massive touchdown potential - and without the overwhelming receiving ceiling - it's much harder to project a 30-point fantasy week.

Instead, I'll probably be heavy on Devonta Freeman, who's priced perfectly for GPPs. Like Bell, Freeman starts in a potent offense and sees solid passing-down usage, but is a much more reliable source of touchdown potential. The Falcons are weekly threats to score 30 points, and they love using Freeman at the goal line, so he's always in play to produce multiple scores. To bring home tournament value, he'll need another 100-yard day or 2 touchdowns, and that's a more achievable path to 25+ fantasy points than Bell's path to 30.

 

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