Need Fantasy Football draft advice? Talk to CBS Sports on your Google Assistantto get insights on the best sleepers and to help decide between players. Just start with, "Hey Google, talk to CBS Sports."
Nobody has ever won a Fantasy championship by avoiding all risk. Risk is where upside is found, and upside is where championships are won.
But you can't just ignore risk, especially when it's staring you in the face. And especially not when it comes in the form of a first-round pick. No player is without risk, of course -- Todd Gurley is one year removed from being a massive disappointment, after all -- but not all risk is created equal. Running backs, on the whole, are riskier than wide receivers; players with a significant injury history are riskier than those without. And on and on.
And it's becoming clear that Le'Veon Bell is one of the riskiest bets the Fantasy community is making this season. That should have been clear throughout draft season, and it became crystallized Monday, when Bell was publicly rebuked by Steelers' GM Kevin Colbert after not signing his franchise tender:
No Le’Veon Bell, still.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 3, 2018
Steelers GM Kevin Colbert said: “We are disappointed Le'Veon Bell has not signed his franchise tender and rejoined his teammates. (We) will continue to focus on preparing the players on our roster for our regular season opener Sunday against the Browns.”
Of course, Colbert is just trying to put pressure on Bell publicly to get him back in the fold, but this isn't exactly what you want to hear as the team is preparing for Week 1 against the Browns. Especially after reports last week indicated Bell might report by Monday – turns out that report was "fake news" after all.
We've seen this from Bell before, as he didn't show up to the team until Sept. 1 last year. That was nine days prior to the team's season opener, and he was there on the first day of practice for that week -- now he's just six days away from the opener and missed the Monday practice he reported for a year ago. Even getting there at that point seemed to lead to Bell stumbling out of the gate, as he had just 10 carries and 13 total touches in Week 1 of 2017, his only game with fewer than even 19 touches. The assumption is he'll report at some point this week and be available for Week 1, but don't be surprised to see a similar workload from Bell this time around.
Bell struggled early in the season overall, average just 60 rushing yards and 81.7 total yards in the first three games. He more than made up for lost time, naturally, finishing as the No. 2 running back in Non-PPR leagues — and he was even better in PPR formats. However, the lingering effects of that slow start may have been felt in his most inefficient season since his rookie campaign, as he rushed for 4.0 yards per carry while adding 7.7 yards per catch, both below his career norms.
Ultimately, Bell made up for that inefficiency with tremendous volume, as he racked up a career-high 431 touches, including the postseason. That gives him consecutive seasons with at least 400 touches, including a whopping 663 carries in that span. We know that kind of cumulative workload can have an impact on a running backs' chances of staying healthy.
And Bell has had a pretty lengthy history of injury issues himself, including a Lisfranc sprain as a rookie, an ACL sprain in 2014, and MCL tear in 2015, and then a groin injury that ultimately required surgery after 2016. He was healthy in 2017, but there's a lot of red ink on his injury report history.
Any one of these risk factors on their own might be worth ignoring. Bell showed you can live with a slow start last season; the massive workload is a risk factor, sure, but it also highlights his upside; the injury history is a concern, but every running back carries heightened injury risk.
But once you add it all up? And considering that, if you haven't drafted yet, you'll have to make a decision on Bell as early as the second overall pick and no later than No. 3 or 4, and … this sounds like a pretty volatile asset. Sure, he's also one who can win your league. But so could Ezekiel Elliott or David Johnson, and though they have red flags of their own, they don't stack on top of each other in quite the same way Bell's do.
I'm not saying Bell shouldn't be a first-round pick. Of course he should be. But, when you're deciding who to take at No. 2 overall, it's worth considering whether we're ignoring too many risk factors with Bell. Especially if he may not be available for Week 1. At the very least, you need to make sure you snag James Conner at this point.