Lion Kings (of PPR)

I ain't Lion, Joique is a Bell of a player

By this point of the preseason, you have learned about all you can. There isn't much time or room in your brain for another tidbit about the Chiefs new offense or Tom Brady's receiving corps. Even if I told you that Ahmad Bradshaw had the third-highest fumble rate among starting running backs when he was in New York, you wouldn't be able to realize that the whole Tom Coughlin benches fumblers thing is a bunch of sassafras. At the same time, if you are on numberFire, you are a junkie (and a smart one, at that). Junkies need their fix. But by now, the weak stuff won't cut it. So let's dig the bottom of the fantasy ocean. Lets talk about late round PPR leagues.......from the Detroit Lions.

Bell Ain't No Joique

The first thing you need to know about Joique Bell is that since 2000, he is the only person in the NFL named Joique to have an offensive touch. Based on this exhaustive research, I don’t think I am going out on a limb to say he is the greatest Joique in NFL history (and, perhaps, the world).

Other amazing Joiquetoids:

- his name is pronounced /bel/

- his first name is pronounced Joyk

- he went to Wayne State, the alma mater of former NFL player Tom Beer

- beer (the drink, not the player) is delicious

- Bell is flex worthy in PPR leagues

- Bell’s current ADP is undrafted

Now that you are up to speed on Mr. Bell, please allow me to explain how he is not just ownable, but potentially rather helpful to your PPR fantasy team.

For Whom the Bell Tolls

If you are a regular reader of numberFire you will have heard us talk about NEP by now. What NEP, or Net Expected Points, shows us is how much a player contributes to his team’s real world scoring. For fantasy football purposes, it is a great way to measure a player’s efficiency versus that of his contemporaries. Spoiler alert: Bell measures up.

I took a look at the NEP data for the 25 running backs who had at least 50 rushing attempts and 25 receptions in 2012. Bell was 7th in rush NEP per attempt, trailing the likes of C.J. Spiller, Adrian Peterson, and Frank Gore. His NEP per receiving target is through the roof; Bell was second, behind only one of the game’s best third-down backs, Danny Woodhead. This is some pretty heady company for a third-year player from the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.

Conveniently, fellow Detroit running back Mikel Leshoure also meets the 50 carry/25 catch requirement. In the same 2012 season, in the same offense that Bell was so efficient, Leshoure was awful. He finished 22nd in rush NEP per attempt and 19th in NEP per receiving target. This tells us that in the same offense, Bell did much more with his touches than did his main competition.

A Bell in the Hand is Worth Two in the Bush

All the efficiency in the world doesn’t matter if Bell doesn’t touch the ball. Enter: Reggie Bush. The former number two overall pick’s pass-catching prowess is no secret. He has a long, proven track record and is a dynamic, explosive, and experienced veteran. Perhaps most importantly, he was not paid a gob of money to come to Detroit and watch from the sidelines. There is no way around it, the Lions hope to have him touch the ball at least 300 times this season. And that’s just fine by me; I love him as a high-upside play in any league. But how does this affect our new favorite Joique’s prospects?

Last year the Lions ran it 391 times and threw the ball another 740. It is reasonable to expect the insane amount of times they threw to regress a bit. I will be conservative and say the split is around 700/425. 103 of the league-high passing attempts were completed to running backs. With Bush in town, we could see that go up 25 or more, but for the sake of discussion, let’s make it 120.

A look at the numberFire’s projections tells us that Bush should see around 210 carries. We also say he is good for 46 receptions. And really, that's probably his floor. In this offense, with their porous defensive secondary leading to copious shootouts, Reggie could catch 60-plus balls (with a 75-80 ceiling) and nothing you can say will convince me otherwise.

Please keep in mind that these estimates, while based on sound math and theory, are just estimates. But for this experiment, that is all we need.

If we subtract Bush’s projection from the Lions' estimated totals, we have around 215 carries and 50 receptions to distribute to the rest of the half back crew. J to the Bell is in the driver’s seat for the lion’s share (another pun?) of those touches. He is the clear number two to Bush, as the underwhelming Leshoure has fallen out of favor. With all of these fancy maths, estimates, and theory discussions in mind, let’s make some projections of what we could see from Bell in 2013.

Ru AttYPARu YdsRecYPCRec YdsTD'sFantasy Pts

At worst, Bell is an RB4 who can sit on your bench and fill in during a bye week. At best, he is a very good flex play. In reality, he has the look of an OK flex with upside for more in the event of another in the long line of Reggie Bush injuries.

All this can be had for the low, low price of a (very) late round draft pick. Zero risk, tons of reward. So don’t be a Joique. Draft Bell.

Ryan Could Get Broylesing Hot

I am pushing it with the bad pun thing, aren't I?

Ryan Broyles is another Lions player who can be had in the waning rounds of most drafts, going in the mid-13th as a low-end WR5. Both his actual value and upside are much higher.

Aside from his recovery from a late-season ACL tear, the main thing holding his ADP back is that we have so little to go on. To that point, he was targeted a mere 32 times last year. Despite these hurdles, we can get our first glimpse into his potential with some simple extrapolation (I did not include the game he left in the first quarter after tearing his ACL):

GamesTarRecYardsTDFFPWR Rank

If he can meet his rookie numbers for a full season, he would outperform his ADP by three rounds.

In 2012, 203 players were targeted at least 30 times. Among that group, Broyles finished 10th in NEP per target. Seven of the nine players ahead of the Lions' second year pro have higher ADP's, with Santana Moss and the injured Danario Alexander being the only exceptions. The bottom line is that the former Sooner was incredibly efficient with his touches. I shouldn't need to tell you that this bodes well for his 2013 chances.

If we can squeeze even 100 targets out of Matt Stafford, Broyles will have immediate flex upside with an opportunity for more. His asking price is minimal and he is as good of a bet to outperform his ADP as any other player going that late.

Can Brandon Pettigrew Roar in as Your Mane Tight End?

Pettigrew as a TE1 might be a hard sell. But as a former (really bad) car salesman, I feel like I may be up to the challenge.

Welcome to the Preowned Tight End Playermall, can I interest you in a Brandon Pettigrew? Here, let me show you under the hood.

You can ignore that little leak there; it was 2012. He had a rough year with his rank of 42nd in NEP/target among the 44 tight ends with 30-plus such opportunities. But his previous owner really enjoyed him when he was mid-pack in that same metric the two previous seasons.

Let's go out for a quick test drive.

Do you like the smooth, consistent, steady play? In 2010 and 2011 he finished 8th and 6th among tight ends in PPR scoring. You can really feel that potential is still there when you give it some gas.

*End Scene*

See, I told you I was a horrible salesman. But the point remains: Pettigrew's ADP reeks of recency bias (and motor oil). For two of the last three seasons he was a top-8 player at his position. And as with Bell, his price is basically free. He is on most waiver wires right now, waiting to replace the overhyped Zach Sudfeld or PPR unfriendly Kyle Rudolph in your lineup.

Really, the guy who seems like he may be the toughest case to make ends up being the easiest. Pettigrew has the best track record, the lowest ADP among this group, and the highest upside. If you roster him, at season's end I bet you will say that he sort of Pettigrew on ya.