Week 1 was not kind to Le'Veon Bell, as he totaled only 47 yards on 13 touches. With his salary continuing to be among the highest of all players, are you buying or selling Bell stock this week against Minnesota?
Phil Alexander: I don't even need to see what Minnesota's rush defense looks like on Monday Night Football to know I'll be overweight on Bell compared to the field this week in GPPs. He just torched 30% of tournament lineups, his price hasn't budged (DraftKings), and he's got a perceived difficult matchup. Bell's situation screams (relative) low ownership, which means it's time to be greedy while your opponents are scared.
Mike Tomlin went against his word and eased Bell in against Cleveland, but we're still talking about the same running back who averaged 28 total touches and 6.3 receptions per game last season. Bell will be more involved after another week of practice and he checks off all the boxes you should be looking for in a DFS running back - exceptionally talented, big home favorite (Pittsburgh opened at -7), primary goal line option, game flow agnostic. Minnesota's defense is only a slight concern. They ranked middle-of-the-pack in rush defense DVOA in 2016 and were generally lit up when their opponents fielded a high quality running back.
There might not be a better time all season to play Bell in GPPs.
Jason Wood: I'm not investing in a Bell bounce back against the Vikings; Minnesota has a stout defense, at least on paper. Plus, with David Johnson hurt, I suspect Bell's ownership is going to be ridiculously high as the "only" elite commodity left on the board. If I'm spending up at running back it's likely going to be Marshawn Lynch and Todd Gurley.
Dan Hindery: For cash games, it is going to be tough to go back to Bell. The matchup is difficult against one of the league’s more talented defenses and Mike Zimmer generally had pretty good success against the Steelers while defensive coordinator of the Bengals. With the salary still sky high, it makes more sense to attack the middle tier at running back and pay up at receiver.
In tournaments, this is exactly the type of week you want to play Bell. He is coming off a down week, facing a perceived bad matchup and is priced in a way where it’s difficult to like your lineup while paying up for him. All of those factors are likely to drive his ownership below 10%, which means he can be a huge differentiator in tournaments if he goes off for the 40-point type of game he is always capable of.
John Mamula: I'm buying on Bell this week and agree with Jason that his ownership will be very high. If David Johnson were healthy, he would without a doubt have the highest running back ownership on the slate. Due to his injury along with difficult matchups for Ezekiel Elliott at Denver and LeSean McCoy at Buffalo, the majority of lineup builds will gravitate toward Bell. He was a victim of negative game flow during the first quarter as the Steelers offense controlled the ball for only two minutes and 33 seconds. Throughout the game, the Browns sold out to stop the run and left plenty of room for short passes to Antonio Brown and Jesse James. Bell will bounce back strong this week.
Justin Howe: In GPP play, I'll have a wild level of exposure to Bell, for the reasons Phil went into. Many DFSers will overweigh last week's dud, his massive price tag, and the Vikings' occasionally stout run defense. But I'll be buying in heavily. The stage is set for depressed ownership levels, and Bell is a strong, matchup-proof attempt at 30+ DFS points every week. Game flow or unexpected circumstances may slow him in a given week, but only David Johnson - who's out for awhile - can boast his realistic ceiling. Bell's blend of dominant volume, explosiveness in space, and receiving ability makes him the best high-dollar value on the board.
I'm not the slightest bit scared off by the Minnesota run defense. They shut down Mark Ingram II and the Ghost of Adrian Peterson in Week 1, but that's not an especially tough run game to grind down. Of the Vikings' last 11 opponents, 9 have totaled 94 yards or more on the ground. As Phil put it, the Vikings don't have some mystical answer when strong runners come to town. They don't allow many touchdowns - just 9 since the start of last season - but they don't often face backs as gifted, versatile, and ball-dominant as Bell, either. And Bell is thoroughly capable of producing a massive DFS line without a particularly high rushing total.
Phil Alexander: I have to disagree with Jason's assertion Bell's ownership will be impacted by Johnson's absence. People will be looking to spend up at quarterback (Tom Brady, Derek Carr, Aaron Rodgers), wide receiver (Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, Amari Cooper, Jordy Nelson) and maybe even with Rob Gronkowski at tight end. Bell's gigantic salary doesn't fit with this week's chalk roster construction. We're going to see the heaviest running back ownership settle on mid-range plays like Ty Montgomery, Marshawn Lynch, and the Terrence West/Buck Allen platoon (vs. CLE). It's more likely Bell's dismal Week 1 and perceived poor matchup leads to recency bias, making him something closer to contrarian than chalk.