Fantasy Football: Ranking the best destinations for Le'Veon Bell
Where will Le'Veon Bell keep first-round Fantasy value? Dave Richard has some ideas.
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The contract squabble between Le'Veon Bell and the Steelers is over. General manager Kevin Colbert said Wednesday that the team will not tag Bell for a second consecutive year, allowing him to go into free agency.
Now the focus turns to where he'll end up.
It has to be a team with tons of salary cap space since Bell figures to command somewhere close to $15 million per year. It better be with a no-nonsense organization, complete with a tough head coach, to keep Bell from being complacent after cashing a check with lots of zeroes on it. And the team that signs him better know how to properly use him -- he's had at least 75 receptions in three of his last four seasons along with a bevy of goal-line opportunities.
Those are just some of the concerns Fantasy managers will have about Bell. There's also ...
- Age: Bell will be 27 years old when the 2019 season starts, but thanks to not playing when he was 26, he should be impeccably fresh. We've seen running backs look rejuvenated after missing a year, and Bell should be no exception.
- Weight: Fantasy managers were alarmed when pictures surfaced in September of Bell looking a little rounder than we remembered. He's posted pictures of himself since then and it seems he's in good shape. It's hard to believe a team will give Bell a large long-term contract without seeing what kind of condition he's in, so expect him to be as chiseled as ever come this summer.
- Money: We know Bell will get paaaaaaid. We don't know if it'll mean he becomes a loafer who doesn't care as much about succeeding or if the new deal will motivate him to prove he's worth it. Where he winds up will go a long way in feeling comfortable, or uncomfortable, with Bell's potential.
So with these factors laid out, here are the five best spots for Bell to realistically sign for Fantasy intentions.
I absolutely love the idea of Bell landing with the Steelers' most bitter division rival and heading up their run-heavy offense. In eight games with Lamar Jackson starting last year, running backs averaged 28.6 carries per game, failing to register 25 handoffs once. It's a running back's heaven. Imagine him not only doing RPOs with Jackson, but also being Jackson's most reliable pass catcher! He could easily finish with over 350 touches while playing strong, motivated football in a division he's all-too familiar with. The Ravens have a good offensive line and nothing at running back that would keep Bell off the field for more than a play or two here or there. He'd easily be a top-10 pick if he wore the black and purple.
2. Tampa Bay
The Buccaneers should be a fun offense with Bruce Arians overseeing everything, complete with a solid offensive line and an every-down opportunity for Bell to immediately take. Arians wouldn't tolerate lazy play from Bell, and Jameis Winston would have a new short-area target to completely rely on. Winston hasn't thrown over 100 targets to his running backs in a season since 2015 but could learn to love doing so with Bell as his teammate. Bell would be a good first-round Fantasy choice.
It's out of the Texans' character to overspend on a free agent but they have over $70 million in cap space and need the massive upgrade on offense. Houston's run game has long needed to help take pressure off of Deshaun Watson, and Bell would be perfect. The RPO action would be exciting, and Bell's role in spread formations would leave defenses scrambling. There's a little concern about the number of catches Bell would get here, along with whether or not the offensive line would be a big enough detriment, but the fit of Bell next to Watson without ever seeing eight in the box outweighs everything. He'd be a late first-rounder.
The Raiders have a big need at running back and have the salary cap space to fit Bell into their long-term plans. Jon Gruden has a great track record with rushers in spite of last year's mostly disappointing production, and the interior of the Raiders offensive line should make room for Bell when he's taking handoffs. Workload would be favorable and the scoring opportunities should be strong, too. There is a little bit of hesitation about whether Gruden and the Raiders would keep Bell focused and motivated, but not enough to scare him out of Round 1.
Why not the Jets? Oh, the Jets might very well sign Bell. They're a contender to do so. But they wouldn't be good for his Fantasy prospects since they have a suspect offensive line, a suspect playcaller and head coach and an offense that doesn't have a lot of receiving firepower to help take pressure off Bell. Plus it's not exactly a franchise conducive to getting the most out of its top players. The fear of Bell getting complacent and discouraged with the Jets would push him out of the first-round of Fantasy drafts.
Why not Indianapolis? Despite the loads of salary cap space, the Colts don't seem like the kind of franchise that will overspend at running back, particularly with so many defensive needs. Frank Reich has expressed a multi-player approach at running back and is probably cool with keeping things that way. It's a darn shame because Bell playing next to Andrew Luck and behind that mammoth offensive line would be amazing. He'd be a first-round pick easily with the Colts, but it doesn't appear to be realistic.
Why not Philadelphia? They can't afford him without clearing out a bunch of veterans from their roster. That doesn't seem like something they'd do since they've gotten by just fine the past couple of seasons with a bunch of part-time running backs. If the Eagles had more cap space and fewer holes to fill, Bell would be a first-round Fantasy choice with them.
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