Le'Veon Bell Is the Top Running Back in Fantasy Football
Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell enters the 2016 season with some serious question marks, as his past two seasons have been cut short because of two major knee injuries.
Although he played only six games last season, Bell is currently being drafted as the first running back off the board in standard and PPR fantasy football formats, per FantasyFootballCalculator.com.
Fantasy owners are still salivating over his 2014 season, during which he racked up 1,361 rushing yards, 83 receptions, and 11 total touchdowns.
Bell, who finished 2014 as the PPR RB1 and his rookie season in 2013 as the RB14, still ran well in 2015 when he was on the field, and his upside in an elite offense is virtually unmatched by other backs in the league.
Bell finished his injury-shortened 2015 campaign 12th in our cumulative Rushing Net Expected Points (NEP) metric among 55 running backs with at least 75 carries last year, and on a per-carry basis, his 0.03 Rushing NEP ranked 7th.
For some more context, teammate DeAngelo Williams racked up a mark of 0.07 (fifth-best) on 200 carries, for a total Rushing NEP of 14.32 (third-best). That's not even close to a knock on Bell. Rather, it shows how fruitful this situation can be for a running back (which we'll get to in more detail soon).
Bell's on-field performance last season in a small sample size was consistent with his electric 2014 season, too, during which he hit a mark of 0.06 in Rushing NEP per play. In 2014, Bell ranked fifth in the NFL in Rushing Net Expected Points (18.59). What really separated him from the pack was his receiving ability out of the backfield as well as when he lined up in the slot.
Since Bell entered the league in 2013, his 2014 Reception NEP is the highest score of all running backs, by far. In fact, his Reception NEP of 64.26 in 2014 is the highest since the great Marshall Faulk's in 2000 and the third-highest score for a running back that we have ever recorded.
Bell is a beast, you guys.
The Pittsburgh Offense
A big part of the argument for Bell is the Steelers' high-powered offense. In only 10 games last season, DeAngelo Williams finished as the RB6 in PPR formats.
Over the past two seasons, the Steelers' offense has been elite. In that timeframe, the Pittsburgh offense finished fifth in 2014 in our schedule-adjusted NEP per play metric and fourth in 2015.
Bell has already proven his immense ceiling in passing game with 83 receptions over 16 games in 2014. Approaching 80 again this year is not at all out of the question.
An Upside Pick
Bell does have injury concerns, and spending an early pick -- he is going in the middle of the first round -- on him doesn't come without risk. However, he's got the upside, situation, and track record to resume his reign as the top running back in fantasy football.
And that's why he should be the first running back off the board in 2016 drafts.