[dropcap]I[/dropcap] personally expected Alabama standout running back Eddie Lacy to be taken by the Steelers in the first or second round in the 2013 NFL Draft. That, however, was not the case as former Michigan State running back Le’Veon Bell now seems to be the future for the Steelers’ backfield after being drafted by Pittsburgh with the 48th overall selection. At 6’1, 230lbs, Bell is a beast of a man and a perfect fit for the Steelers ground and pound offensive style. Head coach Mike Tomlin has reiterated that the Steelers’ offense is predicated on the running game. Bell may be a bruiser of a running back, but he doesn’t have to worry about a heavy college workload like Broncos’ rookie running back Montee Ball. Although Bell did carry the ball 382 times during his senior season, he amassed a reasonable 671 carries in his three years as a Spartan – plenty left in the tank.
One area of concern fantasy owners may have with Le’Veon Bell, is his lack of production in big games or at least against better defenses. In 2012, Bell had 77 rushing yards against Notre Dame, 45 against Ohio State, 68 against Michigan, and 77 against Wisconsin. He had a total of zero touchdowns in those games as well. Even for someone with the biggest fantasy man-crush on Bell, has to admit this is a bit of a concern. It wasn’t just one year that Bell struggled against stout defenses either. In 2011 he had 27 yards against Notre Dame, 50 against Ohio State, and 20 against Michigan. These numbers are trivial for someone with Bell’s size and athleticism, although Pittsburgh’s 2013 schedule includes games against the Bears, Jets, Ravens (2), and Bengals(2), all of which with respectable defenses.
Le’Veon Bell 2012 Rushing Stats
|Boise State||W 17-13||44||210||4.8||2|
|@Central Michigan||W 41-7||18||70||3.9||2|
|Notre Dame||L 20-3||19||77||4.1||0|
|Eastern Michigan||W 23-7||36||253||7||1|
|Ohio State||L 17-16||17||45||2.6||0|
Despite Le’Veon’s Bell’s shortcomings against top tier defenses in the NCAA, he did have his fair share of successes. What may be most impressive about Bell’s college career is that in his sophomore season he totaled just 182 carries but scored 13 times on the ground. That’s one touchdown every 14 carries, a testament to Bell’s power running style and goal line attribute. What’s even more intriguing and alluring for fantasy owners is LeVeon Bell’s ability to make catches out of the backfield. In his sophomore and junior seasons Le’Veon Bell had a combined 67 catches from the running back position – 35 in 2011 and 32 in 2012. So, obviously, Bell has even more value in PPR scoring leagues.
Le’Veon Bell in Steelers black and yellow is probably the rookie I’m most interested in from a fantasy perspective heading into the 2013 season. Despite currently being listed behind Jonathan Dwyer on Pittsburgh’s official depth chart, the kid has a lot of upside. The Steelers’ starting running back position is Bell’s to lose, which he shouldn’t in my opinion. Offensive coordinator Todd Haley has already touted Bell as a “three down back”. Jonathan Dwyer will probably steal some carries along with Isaac Redman and newly acquired RB LaRod Stephens-Howling but Bell should see the majority of the action as the season unfolds.
As with any rookie running back, Le’Veon Bell will have some growing pains and will lose some touches early on. Fantasy owners need to look at the big picture here, Bell is dynasty gold and you should monitor his ADP throughout training camp. I see Bell as a low end RB2 to high end RB3 as of right now. He should probably be the first rookie running back off draft boards.