Ode to Le’Veon Bell

As I turn the page on Le’Veon Bell, my No. 1 draft pick in the fantasy football draft, I have written a song I would like to share with you. Sung to the tune of Levon by Elton John.

Le‘Veon scowls at his franchise tag with a frown
He calls the Steelers cheap to all his fans
As he dines on the finest food in Steel Town

Le‘Veon, Le’Veon likes his money
He makes a lot they say
Spends his days counting
as the Steelers’ season slips away

He was born a pauper
To a single mom on a winter day
When the New York Times
said Sam Walton died and the internet’s begun
Lisa Bell has a son today

And he shall be Le’Veon
And he shall be a good man
And he shall be Le’ Veon
he’ll make his mom proud anyway
And he shall be Le’Veon
And he shall be a good man
He shall be Le’Veon

Le’Veon goes on strike as fans face their fears
But his former Pittsburgh team thrives
James Conner carries the football to cheers
And Le’Veon, he wants to go Greenland
Leaving all the bitter memories behind

He was born a pauper
To a single mom on a winter day
When the New York Times
said Sam Walton died and the internet’s begun
Lisa Bell has a son today

And he shall be Le’Veon
And he shall be a good man
And he shall be Le’Veon
he’ll make his mom proud anyway
And he shall be Le’Veon
And he shall be a good man
He shall be Le’Veon

 

Bell: A tale of American greed

Le’Veon Bell had until 4 p.m. ET today to report to the Steelers if he was going to play football this season. That didn’t happen, and it should surprise no one. Bell cares about no one except himself. He clearly doesn’t care about his team, or the Pittsburgh fans.

Look for Bell to be featured soon on an episode of American Greed, the popular CNBC television show that dissects the dark side of the American Dream. It has been reported that Bell turned down an offer from the Steelers worth $70 million over five years.

Bell could have earned $14.5 million if he had played this season under the franchise tag. Bell’s agent said he held out to protect his health. Clearly the long-term contract he wants will not come from the Steelers. Will any team be foolish enough to pay him that much?

Bell has been exposed as more than just a narcissist. James Conner, a previously unknown running back from the University of Pittsburgh, has proven that Bell’s success with the Steelers was largely a result of the team’s offensive line and a winning system.

Conner stepped into Bell’s place in the lineup in the first week of the season and has dominated. Through ten games, he’s third in rushing yards and is ninth most targeted. Fantasy PPR statistics reveal he’s the third-best back, averaging 24.8 points per game.

Le’Veon Bell was the second-best running back last year, and he averaged 22.8 points per game. I’m not saying Bell isn’t a good running back. He’s good, but NFL teams must now wonder if he’s worth anywhere near as much money as he thinks he’s worth.

 

Conner success exposes Bell

Week 10 of the 2018 NFL season kicks off tonight with Pittsburgh hosting Carolina. My interest in the game is focused on James Conner. Two weeks ago today I traded DeAndre Hopkins and two other players for Conner, Le’Veon Bell and another player.

The trade was made right before week 8, and Conner proceeded to rack up 38.2 fantasy points. The following week, he had 29.3 points. Conner may not do as well tonight since the Panthers have been one of the toughest running back defenses in the league.

But you have to know that I’m happy to have Conner on my fantasy team. Bell, who still hasn’t reported to the Steelers, is nothing more than a handcuff for Conner. This is an ironic turn of events after Conner started the season as a handcuff for Bell.

Bell is expected to rejoin the Steelers soon, and few fantasy players even care. For me, he actually poses a risk because any usage will only detract from Conner. Two months ago, I was devastated by Bell’s holdout. Now, I hope he continues to hold out.

I think every honest person will admit they are surprised by Conner’s success. The Pitt running back, selected in the third round of the 2017 NFL draft, has rushed for more than 100 yards in his last four games. He’s also averaged five receptions per game.

My takeaway is that the Steelers system is fertile ground for the making of great running backs. What 2018 has proven is that Le’Veon Bell isn’t that special. He has been exposed as nothing more than another good running back who benefitted from a great system.

 

Bye week strategies

I’ve been writing about bye weeks, including how to prepare for them and how to use them to your advantage in leveraging a trade. There are many different perspectives on bye weeks and how to handle them.

Some pundits will tell you to plan for bye weeks before the draft so that you won’t be caught short. Others will tell you to forget about them and even take a loss on a week where you have a bunch of players out.

My strategy falls somewhere between these two extremes. I’ve said previously that I don’t plan around bye weeks on draft night. It’s crazy enough trying to draft the best available players to worry about that.

On the other hand, ignoring bye weeks completely and taking an automatic loss, or even two, is foolish. If you’re 8-0 or 7-1 heading into week 9, you can afford to take a loss. But what if you’re 4-4, or 3-5?

My bye week strategy was developed early in the season, long before the first bye week occurred (week 4). Before I traded for a player, acquired a player from the waiver wire, or dropped a player, I considered bye weeks.

The bye week problem is most acute in the “thin” positions, like quarterback, tight end, defense/special teams and kickers. You probably only have one defense and one tight kicker on your team, so you must plan for it.

 

Trade leverage in bye weeks

I’ve already written about the importance of planning for and around bye weeks in the NFL. If you haven’t done so, it’s too late now because you’re in the belly of the beast. Six NFL teams are on byes in week 9.

One of the opposing teams in my league had seven of his 15 players on bye this week, and he also had Dalvin Cook on the bench. In case you haven’t been following the NFL, Cook appears to be on a permanent bye.

If you have teams in your league like this one, who got themselves in a bind because of poor planning, you may have leverage to pull off a favorable trade. The key is to have a decent player on the bench to trade with.

When I say a decent player on the bench, I mean someone that’s better than the hot garbage your opponent will find on the waiver wire but not good enough to crack your starting lineup. It’s a player you can give up.

In my case, my opponent needed a serviceable wide receiver, so I traded Doug Baldwin for Alshon Jeffery. Both have had injuries this year, but Jeffery has come back strong and had three games with 20 plus fantasy points.

The problem for my opponent was that Jeffery was on a bye this week, and he needed win a game to stay in the race for the playoffs. He’s currently 3-5. Otherwise, he probably wouldn’t have made the trade.

 

RB by committee a stat killer

Who has the most yards per carry of the following 10 running backs? Todd Gurley, Ezekiel Elliott, Kareem Hunt, Melvin Gordon, James Conner, Joe Mixon, Christian McCaffrey, Alvin Kamara, or Phillip Lindsay?

If you answered Phillip Lindsay, you’re right. But Lindsay is only No. 11 in total yards through the first seven weeks of the 2018 NFL season. Why? The reason is because he doesn’t get enough opportunities to carry the ball.

Lindsay has a total of 75 carries. Compare that to Gurley with 144, or Elliott with 132, and you can understand why he’s only averaging 12.6 fantasy points per game. But that could change, which is why I’m starting Lindsay again this week.

Nearly 40 percent of Lindsay’s rushing yardage has come from explosive rushes of at least 15 yards, which is why he excelled despite a small workload in a three-back committee. He is averaging 5.8 yards per carry.

With Royce Freeman in danger of missing this week’s game after suffering a high-ankle sprain, Lindsay might get 15 or more carries this week. If he was the beneficiary of six passes like he was two weeks ago, he could top 20 points.

The running back by committee has been a killer for talented running backs like Lindsay. While the Rams and the Cowboys each have their bell cow running back, the Broncos and other teams like the Green Bay Packers do not.

The running back committee in Green Bay is a real enigma. The Packers have Aaron Jones, averaging 5.9 yards per carry, with only 32 carries in four games. Eleven of those came in one game – his only double-digit game of the year.

 

Tip of the hat to my opponent

Saquon Barkley’s fourth quarter heroics last night sealed my fate as I lost by four points after Barkley scored 14 of his 26.4 points in the final quarter of the game against the Falcons. The Giants didn’t win the game, but I’m sure my opponent couldn’t care less.

I won’t give my opponent credit for drafting the rookie running back because his team was drafted entirely by auto pick. He got Barkley with the sixth pick in the draft and Melvin Gordon with the 15thpick. Like I’ve always said, it’s better to be lucky than good.

What I will give my opponent credit for is the action he took shortly after Gordon was scratched from the starting lineup. Even though the game was an early start in London, he alertly picked up Latavius Murray off the waiver wire an hour before kickoff.

Murray, the backup for injured Dalvin Cook, was available, and the Minnesota running back rewarded the GM by scoring 22.3 fantasy points. The only reason Murray was available was because Cook’s owner hadn’t thought to pick up the handcuff.

Today, I still have the taste of defeat in my throat, and it’s a bitter taste. This is the first time that I have lost back-to-back games since the fourth week of last year’s season, and it dropped me to 4-3. There are six more regular season games, and I’m not panicking.

I’m not panicking, but I’m also not complacent. Still not content with my team, I traded DeAndre Hopkins, Tevin Coleman and Leonard Fournette today for James Connor, Le’Veon Bell and Doug Baldwin. Ironically, I have Bell back on my team.

The trade was a gamble. I was weak at the running back position with David Johnson underperforming and Jordan Howard a bust. Phillip Lindsay is emerging as a sleeper, but I needed more. Giving up Hopkins was hard, and I hope I made the right move.