(Photo by Mark Alberti/ Icon Sportswire)
We see it every year…a new running back emerges from the pack and brings many to fantasy football glory. There is dancing in the streets and jubilation all around because there is a new king atop the fake football world. Fast forward several months and that workhorse running back is at the top of the rankings and the consensus #1 overall pick, because of course a repeat of that dominance is imminent, right?
Whether you already know your league’s draft order like mine does, or you are waiting to find out an hour before the draft, I assure you there are many out there that are hoping for the first pick of the draft…the Todd Gurley pick.
If you couldn’t tell already, this article is about who you should be taking as the #1 pick. Furthermore, if you couldn’t already tell from the title of this article and my implied sarcasm, I am not suggesting taking Todd Gurley with the most valuable pick in the draft. When your league’s Roger Goodell comes to the podium, he needs to be saying, “With the first pick of the 2018 Fantasy Football draft, the insert team selects Le’Veon Bell, RB Pittsburgh Steelers.”
Don’t believe me? Let’s make the case. Please note we will be looking at PPR Scoring, but even in standard, Bell is my choice.
The Impossible Repeat
Since Le’Veon Bell came into the league in 2013, there have been exactly 5 different running backs to finish #1 overall in PPR scoring. The tables below show how they followed up those campaigns:
|2015||Le’Veon Bell||111||Injured Week 6|
|2017||David Johnson||13||Injured Week 1|
As you can see in the small sample size of five years, zero running backs have gone on to post another campaign worthy of the top overall pick. If we expand it to the past 10 years, it is the same story. It takes the perfect season to end up being the RB1 in fantasy football, and it is always a toss-up as to who is going to end up there in the end. This is called drafting for upside.
There is an old saying in the fantasy football world that says, “You can’t win your league in the first round, but you can definitely lose it.” Just ask the guys who drafted Mike Evans top 10 last year. Or the guys that didn’t draft Gurley or Kamara until the 3rd and 12th round respectively last year. Chances are, the RB1 at years end won’t even be drafted in the top 5.
This is where Bell comes in. What I look for in the first round is someone who is going to give me elite level talent with consistent top 3 upside at the position. Le’veon Bell has given us this on a year in and year out basis. Here are his finishes over the past 4 seasons (we are excluding his rookie season before he cut weight).
2015: Was on pace for RB3 with 18.5 PPG before going down in week 6.
2016: RB3 (In only 12 Games due to suspension)
Over the course of Bell’s career, if you take out his rookie season where he averaged just over 16 points per game, he is averaging a RIDICULOUS 22.8 PPG in PPR formats, 4.6 YPC, around 100 targets per year and a couple of handfuls of touchdowns.
To sum it all up, I understand if you want to follow the hot hand with Todd Gurley, or even another name that you are fond of like David Johnson, Ezekiel Elliott, Alvin Kamara or Antonio Brown. However, since the likes of Priest Holmes in 2002 & 2003, there has not been a back to back RB1 finish by a player. So instead of taking an RB that you hope repeats, take the Bell-cow Pittsburgh Steelers RB who has not finished outside the top 3 in points per game since his Sophomore campaign.
If there is still doubt in your mind, I will leave you with this:
to all my Steeler fans, my desire always has been to retire a Steeler…both sides worked extremely hard today to make that happen, but the NFL is a hard business at times…to the fans that had hope, I’m sorry we let youu down but trust me, 2018 will be my best season to date…
— Le'Veon Bell (@LeVeonBell) July 16, 2018
…2018 will be my best season to date…
To put that in perspective, that would be a stat line of: 322/1610/10 rushing & 86/855/4 receiving – good for 416.5 PPR points.
Good luck and have fun with your draft!