Le’Veon Bell was fantasy’s No. 5 RB in terms of points per game last year, No. 3 in 2014 and No. 11 as a rookie in 2013. So when news broke last week that he’s facing a four-game suspension for reportedly missing multiple drug tests, the fantasy ramifications were wide-reaching.
DraftKings players have it relatively easy. For now, we only have to examine how backup DeAngelo Williams will fare while Bell is suspended:
DEANGELO THE WORKHORSE
Le’Veon Bell missed two games last year due to a marijuana-related suspension and eight due to a season-ending knee injury. In the nine games DeAngelo Williams played fully, he averaged 22.9 touches while logging a whopping 91.9 percent of the snaps. To put that workload in perspective, last year’s No. 1 PPR running back (Devonta Freeman) averaged 22.5 touches on 71.1 percent of the snaps. Additionally, Williams was the Steelers’ no-doubt red-zone/goal-line back as he turned 18 of his runs inside the 5-yard line into 10 touchdowns. He received 69.2 percent of his team’s total runs inside the 5-yard line, sixth-most in the NFL even with Bell playing in six games.
During the offseason, the Steelers did nothing to upgrade their RB depth chart. Behind Bell/Williams remains Fitzgerald Toussaint and a bunch of camp bodies. So we know Williams has the opportunity we absolutely covet as DFS players: A true three-down plus goal-line back who is game-flow independent. And even though he turned 33 in April, Williams was PFF’s No. 8 running back in terms of running independent of blocking – he can still play.
DeAngelo opens up at Washington in Week 1 and will project as one of the highest-scoring running backs on DraftKings.
THE FUTURE OF LE’VEON
Bell is appealing his suspension and says he will win. Unfortunately, we have no reason to believe him right now.
We shouldn’t question the Steelers’ commitment to Bell. Although Williams played reasonably well during Bell’s two-game suspension to open 2015, the starter immediately returned for 95.2 percent of the snaps in Week 3 and 94.0 percent overall in the five games before his knee injury. If Le’Veon comes off suspension healthy, I would not hesitate to project a full workload.
Of course, health is a huge issue for Bell these days. In Week 17 of 2014, he hyperextended his right knee, missed a playoff game and underwent extensive rehab. Last year, he tore the MCL and PCL in that same right knee and needed surgery. Repeated severe injuries on the same joint are always going to scare me. I won’t be considering Bell until the third-round of season-long drafts, after RBs such as Lamar Miller, Mark Ingram and Jamaal Charles are off the board.
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