DFS Roundtable: Le'Veon a Prayer

Are you shoehorning Le'Veon Bell's monstrous salary into your Week 5 cash lineup(s)? Why or why not?

Le'Veon Bell erupted in a major way in Week 4, finally justifying his mammoth DFS salary with 186 total yards and 2 touchdowns. We know he's always capable of this sort of thing, and no one wants to be stuck without Bell on a Bell Week, but he generally only reaches this week's cash-value markers about a third of the time. Are you shoehorning him into your Week 5 cash lineup(s)? Is that for strategic reasons (you want to follow the chalk on Bell and drift along with the pack) or for actual ones (you genuinely expect 3x production)?

Justin Bonnema: I would be quite nervous without him in my lineups this week, so I'll have high exposure in all formats. Beyond the fact that he ranks second in the league in total touches, second in opportunity percentage (carries + targets), and fourth in total yards, he also gets the Jaguars at home this week. Only the Chargers have allowed more rushing yards, only the Rams and Patriots have allowed more total yards, and only three teams have allowed more total touchdowns to running backs. Last week's numbers may have been a bit fluky thanks to Bilal Powell's odd 75-yard touchdown run, but Alex Collins hit them up for 82 yards on nine carries in Week 3 (9.1 YPC), and Derrick Henry smashed them for 92 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries in Week 2 (6.5 YPC). He has the best matchup on the board. Can't say no. Ignore his heavy ownership.

Jason Wood: The Jaguars are perceived as an opportunistic defense thanks to their Week 1 heroics, but as Bonnema illustrated, the unit is in fact one of the weaker in the league after a month. The price tag is daunting, and as the question itself noted, Bell rarely hits 3x value at this pricing. So the key here is to focus on ownership levels and maintain enough exposure to Bell that you're not hosed if he goes off, but to not be overweight him much beyond the consensus exposure. I'm still not sure what the Steelers are, as a team. Ben Roethlisberger's numbers are okay, but watching him has been painful at times. I just don't know if the Steelers are a legitimately potent offense or not. Bottom line, don't be afraid to play Bell, but don't overdo it. The fear of missing out is no more rational than any other fear.

David Dodds: Jacksonville has become a funnel defense (shutting down the pass, but yielding giant yards in the run game). Running backs Bilal Powell and Elijah McGuire combined for 321 yards and 2 touchdowns last week and the Jaguars knew the Jets would be running. It's a copy-cat league, so I suspect the Steelers will be running Bell early and often, and I like his chances to finish atop the position this week.

Justin Howe: I’m on board with Jason’s point that fading Bell shouldn’t scare us much more than fading any other back should. In fact, it’s hard to pragmatically project him that far beyond the other top, dynamic, bell cow types like Todd Gurley and Ezekiel Elliott. For one, we can’t just start expecting 39 touches and 2 touchdowns every week; that would be a wild jumping-off point. Something like 130 total yards, 3-5 receptions, and 1 touchdown should be where we start; that’s a nice, script-agnostic projection for the best running back on Earth. But that line, even with a 100-yard bonus baked in, doesn’t quite get us to his cash-value marker. The fact is, paying this premium for Bell is a prayer that he scores twice or racks up 150+ yards, and while he’s always capable of that, we don’t want to build our cash lineups by relying on it. Gurley and Elliott (and to a lesser extent, Kareem Hunt on FanDuel) offer similar ceilings and floors with much more digestible salaries.

Dan Hindery: I’m going to wander slightly off-topic here to note that I don’t get overly worried about expensive players hitting 3x. If Bell projects for 25 points and there are enough low-priced options at other positions that I am comfortable with, I put him in my lineup and don’t care if he misses 3x. Just speaking in general, it’s easier to find a $4,000 wide receiver who projects for 12+ points (and 3x+) than it is to find a $7,000 wide receiver who projects for 21+ (and 3x+).

To put it slightly differently, if you were only putting players into your lineup who you felt were most likely to hit 3x, you’d still have a lot of salary left over because the cheap players generally have the highest value-multiples. The question then becomes how you spend the rest of that money most efficiently. The safety and upside of a talented player who projects for 30 touches is a great way to spend that money.

As for Bell this week, he is my top play in terms of pure points. The question then becomes whether there is enough value at other positions to fit him into a lineup while not making too many sacrifices at other spots. On FanDuel, I see enough value that I think I can fit Bell in relatively painlessly. On DraftKings it is doable but much tougher. I am leaning towards trying to squeeze both him and Todd Gurley in, even if it means I have to dip below $5,000 at quarterback.

James Brimacombe: Bell's price is high right now but rightfully so. I will be playing Bell every week in cash games moving forward, as I feel he more than justifies the price. My hope with Bell is that his high price will actually scare off others from playing him and maybe keep his ownership lower than it should be. This week against the Jaguars, Bell has an ideal matchup, he’s a big home favorite with positive game script, and he’s facing a defense that ranks third-worst in the league at defending the running back position. The Jaguars have been scored on by running backs named Bilal Powell, Elijah McGuire, Derrick Henry, and Jalston Fowler. Those backs don't even come close to the talent and volume that Bell sees on a week-to-week basis. He is my rock this week and I will be building lineups around him. The fact that he is coming off a game where he touched the ball 39 times is amazing; that almost doubles any other running backs production on a good game. So the high salary is almost getting you two players for the price of one.


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