New York Jets running back Le’Veon Bell had a tough first season in the Big Apple. After missing the entirety of 2018 searching for a new contract, Bell struck paydirt in free agency with the Jets. The running back didn’t live up to his lofty expectations in 2019, but can he bounce during his second season with Gang Green?
Fantasy Football Profile: Le’Veon Bell
Nobody expected Le’Veon Bell to repeat his Pittsburgh heroics with New York, but most expected him to be better than he was last year. Running backs are largely a product of their surroundings, and Bell wasn’t able to be the exception to the rule. Overall, the two-time All-Pro averaged just 3.2 yards-per-carry and only found the endzone on four occasions. He didn’t have his usual game-breaking weeks and didn’t live up to his first or second-round average draft position. While his RB16 finish was respectable, it certainly wasn’t what fantasy owners signed up for.
Bell’s shortcomings are largely due to his atrocious situation. The New York Jets had one of the worst offensive lines in the league and Bell’s patient style of running requires open lanes. Additionally, Sam Darnold missed part of the season with mono and took a while to get comfortable once back on the field. However, even when Darnold was healthy, Bell failed to put up top numbers.
The Jets caught fire down the stretch, winning five of their final seven games. These game scripts should have played to Bell’s favor, but he still finished as the RB20 on a per-game basis over this timeframe. This wasn’t for lack of opportunity, as he averaged just under 21 touches per game in these seven games. No matter how you cut it, Bell just wasn’t himself last year and only saved his fantasy season thanks to his ridiculously high workload.
Le’Veon Bell’s situation should improve heading into 2020. As previously mentioned, New York’s offensive line was an absolute dumpster fire last year. The Jets acknowledged this by bringing in multiple starters via free agency and the draft. Greg Van Roten, Connor McGovern, George Fant, Alex Lewis, and first-round pick Mekhi Becton all should contribute in 2020 and make life easier for Bell and quarterback Sam Darnold.
Bell and head coach Adam Gase reportedly aren’t on the best of terms, which could lead to some worrying about Bell’s workload moving forward. However, the Jets haven’t added anyone capable of stealing Bell’s starting job. Frank Gore is immortal, but he’s nothing more than a change-of-pace back at this point in his career. The only young face in town is fourth-round pick Lamical Perine, and Day 3 rookies historically aren’t ready to steal carries right out of the gate. Whether Gase likes it or not, he’ll have no choice but to feed his high-priced running back.
Bell still has a clear command of the backfield, and his offensive line should take a drastic step forward. However, there are a few obstacles standing between him and an RB1 finish. For one, this offense still won’t be that good. It’s better than it was a year ago, but it’s still not great. Adam Gase isn’t exactly an inspiring coach, and there are no reliable offensive weapons.
The jury is still out on whether or not Sam Darnold can be a franchise quarterback, but it’s safe to assume he’s not capable of carrying an entire offense on his own like peak Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. Historically speaking, running backs need to be in high-scoring offenses in order to put up a top finish, and it’s hard to envision the Jets fitting that requirement. Even if Bell finds his old form, this puts a dramatic cap on his ceiling.
Le’Veon Bell Average Draft Position
As of this posting, Fantasy Football Calculator currently has Le’Veon Bell going off the board with the 32nd overall selection. This puts him at the back of the third in 12-team leagues and places him in the same tier as Leonard Fournette, James Conner, David Johnson, and Chris Carson.
Bell belongs in this general tier, although I’d probably take all of the other aforementioned running backs before him. Each player essentially has complete control of their backfield, and Bell will probably be in the worst offense. The Jacksonville Jaguars might be worse, but it’s close. Bell has a large workload, but the offense and supporting cast is still subpar. If he’s going to be anything more than a low-end RB2, he’ll need to use his talent to overproduce relative to expectation.
Talent can be overrated in fantasy football, as opportunity and situation tend to dictate success more than individual skill. However, talent still matters, and it’s clear that Bell isn’t the player he once was. The human body can only take so much punishment, and Bell’s taken more than his fair share of touches over the years. He doesn’t possess the same burst that he did a few seasons ago, so the big plays will be fewer and further between.
Bell’s a fine low-end RB2 or flex play if you’re looking for a safe, high-volume option. However, you shouldn’t expect him come anywhere close to matching his Pittsburgh production.
Embed from Getty Images