What Can Joique Do For You?
We love Reggie Bush this season, but there’s a case – one that makes more sense in deeper fantasy football leagues – for another Lions running back. And his name is Joique.
I’d confidently make the assumption that casual fantasy players had no idea who Joique Bell was entering the 2012 season. Heck, I’d put money down on the fact that plenty of football fans still don’t know who he is. If they do, it’s probably more because of his name than his actual talent.
Get educated; it’s time to get to know the Wayne State product. To your potential surprise, Joique Bell isn’t as awkward at football as his name implies. And, to be truthful, Bell has capability to hold fantasy value in 2013.
He’s a Sleeper, Not a Starter
First things first: I’m not promoting Joique Bell as anything but a late-round pick in deep leagues. It’d be more than idiotic to have him higher than the fifth or sixth running back on your fantasy team entering the season, and quite honestly, you probably won’t even have to go into the season with him on your bench.
However, it’s good to know information on an undrafted player – fantasy football-wise – in case an opportunity arises. And that’s the case for Bell. His current ADP rests at roughly ‘Round Nowhere’, as fantasyfootballcalulator.com has him going undrafted. He shouldn’t be off your radar just because of that though.
Again, get educated.
Don’t use Joique Bell’s sweet 5.0 yards per carry average last year to justify much. He was a backup, able to enjoy the benefits of being somewhat of a surprise factor against potential soft defenses. It’s tough to get an honest judgment from an average like that, let alone one from a player who wasn’t consistently on the field.
Even so, we should be aware that Bell wasn’t simply a garbage time asset in 2013 (take note, Carson Palmer). He still saw 39 carries when the Lions were either tied or winning, rushing for 261 yards. In fact, the second quarter ended up being Bell’s highest volume quarter last season. Moreover, and something better known about the Lions back, Bell caught 52 passes on 82 targets last year, good for the sixth most among running backs in the entire league.
However, what matters most about Joique Bell last season is the fact that he ranked fifth among backs in terms of total net expected points. In other words, Bell was adding more points towards his team’s total output - both on the ground and through the air - than all but four runners a season ago, two of which being Adrian Peterson and CJ Spiller. Impressive? Yes, but again, we have to remember that Bell was a backup, and snagging passes contributes more than slashing defenses for just a few yards per play.
That's why you have to be careful (and don’t put words in my mouth): I’m not saying that Bell was better than those runners, nor am I saying that Joique is the fifth best running back option in the league. Rather, I’m simply stating that given opportunity, Bell succeeded. If defenses looked to stop Bell, I’m sure his Total NEP value would drop. But at the same time, there's no reason to simply ignore Bell’s successes last season, especially if he assumes a similar - or better - role in 2013.
Reggie Bush’s arrival in Detroit certainly lowered Joique’s potential as a fantasy running back in 2013. Bush is a capable runner, but more importantly, a great pass catcher; something Bell succeeded in doing last season. Essentially, the new Lions back will not only be a lead runner for the team, but he could also steal opportunities late in games from Bell through the air.
That being said, Reggie Bush, as noted by Zach in his article, is one of the three riskiest top running back options entering the season. No, it doesn’t mean you should avoid him, but the risk is there for a reason: he’s on a new team, his volume is a little unknown and his health has been iffy when he plays on turf (as shown by his experience in New Orleans).
If Bush goes down or can’t get acclimated in Detroit, Joique is the player to own. Bell has already opened up camp as the number two runner behind Bush, and it shouldn’t be a huge surprise as to why: Mikel Leshoure isn’t a special runner, and he also isn’t the same type of runner. In fact, Leshoure's Total NEP last season ranked 33 spots below Bell’s, showing that he may not be as effective in the Lions offense (at least through the air).
Joique’s 2013 Outlook
Let me repeat: You don’t need to select Bell in every fantasy league.
But he is worth watching in the preseason. If he can continue to move up on the depth chart and officially leapfrog Mikel Leshoure, there’s an opportunity for touches in the upcoming season. Also, keep in mind that Reggie Bush has never carried the ball more than 227 times in a single season during his entire NFL career. Although the Lions are the pass-happiest team in the league, they still ran the ball more than seven other squads last season. Bush won't touch the ball on every single play, and the Lions could certainly incorporate both backs into their game plan given their versatility. Bell is still a potential deep play even with a healthy Bush.
We currently have Bell slotted for just thirty standard fantasy points for this upcoming season versus Mikel Leshoure’s 94, but much of that has to do with opportunity. If Bell can pick up some of the 120 attempts that Leshoure is projected to snag as the number two back in Detroit, then you’re talking about a probable flex in larger PPR leagues. When you factor in Reggie Bush’s risk, you can see that Bell has a lot of hidden potential in 2013.
Watch to see his usage in camp and in the preseason. If it starts to spike, he should be at least rostered on fantasy football teams. And if Reggie Bush can't get it together or gets hit by the injury bug, Bell should be a sneaky play this season.