2018 Fantasy Football Le’Veon Bell Return Impact

by Andy Stitzer
Le'Veon Bell Return Impact

Fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers have been eagerly awaiting the return of their superstar running back, Le’Veon Bell. They had high hopes for him and the team this season, but due to contract issues, he has yet to report to the team.

But if he wants this season to count towards free agency, he will have to report by November 13.

That means he could make his season debut on Sunday Night Football against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Should this happen, the fantasy impact could be drastic and far-reaching.

2018 Fantasy Football Le'Veon Bell Return Impact

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James Conner's Season

The most obvious and dramatic impact will be on James Conner, of course. After some early season success and struggles, Conner has turned it on over the last month of the season making many wonders if Bell is even needed. With 163 total yards (107 rushing, 56 receiving (off seven receptions)) and a touchdown, he had another fantastic week for Steelers fans and his fantasy owners.

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Sunday’s game was his fourth 100+ yard day on the ground in a row and fifth of the season. Over his last four games, he has carried the ball at least 19 times (108 total) a game. Following the Ravens game, he was asked what he thinks about maintain such a workload over the remainder of the season.

His response had to make the Steelers front office smile— “I’m built for this.”

The thought certainly makes his fantasy owners happy as well as the Steelers front office. With Conner playing like he is and his willingness to continue doing so, they may not feel the need to make Le’Veon Bell the kind of offer that he wants.

The Return

But when Bell returns next week, and he will, they are going to want to see what he has in the tank. They may be wanting to do so just to see if he is going to be a team player or if his primary concern is going to be himself. As good as Conner may be looking right now, you don’t want to just discard someone of Le’Veon Bell’s potential impact.

So—he will get his carries this season. But the question may be when the team puts Bell on the field— or when he finally decides to step on the field himself.

They may decide that they do not want to mess with a formula that is working and continue with Conner as the leading man. Without Bell, they have managed to gain firm control over the AFC North. According to Betway Sports, they are the runaway favorites to win the division at -133.33 followed by the Bengals (+250) and the Ravens (+300).

But at the same time, they could decide at some point over the remainder of the season to rest Conner for the playoffs. They could also decide that they want to make the most of both running backs as much as they can and start splitting carries.

While that could mean good things for Steelers fans to have two good running backs sharing the load, the notion is a tortuous one to Conner’s fantasy owners.

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Rest of the Season Outlook

Over the last four games—all wins for the Steelers – Conner has averaged 22 carries and five receptions a game. He is averaging 5.4 yards a carry and 10.8 yards a carry. They will not cut to dramatically into his workload to start. But it wouldn’t be shocking to see his touches decrease to 12-15 carries a game and two or three receptions.

At his current pace (5.4 yards a carry and 10.8 yards a catch), that means he’ll account for 86-113.4 yards a game. So, for leagues that give bonuses for total yardage, he could be just fine.

But many do not, and if Bell does well, Conner’s touches will decrease even further.

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Bell’s impact will likely be minimal his first week back because he simply isn’t going to be in game shape and the Steelers would be foolish not to continue riding the hot hand. But they will eventually give more and more work to Bell over Conner.

So, if you have Conner and don’t have Bell, you may want to explore your options in the free agent market. It is better to be ready for Bell to have a serious impact on Conner rather than not be ready.

Of course, if Bell is going to continue erring on the side of caution and self-preservation, he may just follow the advice James Harrison offered and be ‘injured’ for the duration of the season after he reports.

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