Let us help you sort out what missing a game would mean for Le’Veon Bell in your fantasy drafts as well as the (non)impact of LeGarrette Blount
Check out our previous What To Do/Where to Draft articles on:
Josh Gordon: First and Second Chapters
Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount were picked up for possession of marijuana and now have a pending judgement against them from the NFL regarding possible suspension.
The question of how much punishment is in order seems to be unanimous throughout the industry. As a first time offenders in the NFL, a one game suspension is usually what’s to order, but there is a question of when said punishment will be handed down by the NFL.
SBNation’s excellent Pittsburgh Steelers blog, Behind the Steel Curtain, has multiple stories on the matter, so I won’t rehash them here. Check them out.
Since one game for each seems to be the most reasonable assumption based on those reports, then that’s what we’ll work with in determining the best place to select each running back.
The other question is just how many carries will Blount get that would’ve gone to Bell last year, including goal line?
As of today, Le’Veon Bell’s ADP is the 10th running back selected in PPR formats, according to Fantasy Football Calculator, and the 21.5th pick overall. His status has not change much over the past week, dropping down three or four spots overall but still the 10th RB off the board.
LeGarrette Blount is the 52nd running back taken in the same PPR format, and the 147th player taken overall. His draft stock has actually risen a little over the past week, by about seven spots.
Let’s look at Le’Veon Bell’s rookie season to see if his 9th best PPG performance last season in PPR formats will regress, get better or stay about the same in 2014.
According to the epically awesome Pro Football Focus, where we got all snapcount info, the Steelers had 1067 snaps last season, or 66.69 snaps per game. Of those, Bell participated in 691 of those snaps. Since Bell missed three games in 2013, his percentage of snaps in games in which he played was 79.7%.
The Steelers ran on 385 of their snaps, a percentage of 36%. The Steelers ran the ball when Bell was in the game also 36% of the time. Bell ran the ball 92% of the time the Steelers ran the ball when he was active.
Looking at the team history and trends of the offense under Todd Haley, they ran nearly 38% of the time in Haley’s first season, 2012. The relative decrease in running in 2013 was likely directly related to Ben Roethlisberger’s availability, whereas he was injured and missed time in 2012.
Given this, I feel comfortable with last season’s run rate/play mix in looking at Bell’s numbers for 2014.
If we figure:
A. The Steelers will run about 67 plays per game.
B. They will run the ball about 36% of the time they have the ball.
Then we can determine that the Steelers will approximately have 386 running plays to split among their players.
Looking at LeGarrette Blount last season with Patriots we see New England running almost 10 plays more per game than the Steelers last season. This means that, right off the bat, even if Blount were used exactly the same way, coincidentally, with Pittsburgh as he was with New England, he is looking at around a 13% deflation in counting stats due to pace.
Also, the Patriots ran the ball 39 percent of the time last season, three percent more than Steelers. This is another variable that would deflate Blount’s numbers and projection with Pittsburgh.
Blount carried 33% of the rushes for New England last season, as Steven Ridley and company filed through the usual running back revolving door for the Patriots.
So how much will Blount likely cut into the Bell monopoly of rushes? If we go by the 386 carries number, it seems reasonable that Bell’s carries should drop a little, and at 80 percent of the workload, that would still be a 309 carry season, if he were to play 16 games.
At such a rate, Blount would get 19 percent of the carries, given a percentage point for Roethlisberger’s scrambles, sneaks, etc. 19 percent would be 73 carries for the season.
Blount at a New England-y 30% would be 116 carries to Bell’s 259, allowing a 3 percent others to round out the carries. This seems reasonable considering the LeBackfield discussion throughout the preseason.
At 259 carries and considering an offensive line improvement and rise in ypc to 4.0, Bell would have 1036 rushing yards. If his receiving rates held and, since we’re considering same pace as last season and same play mix, Bell would have 55 catches for 16 games. At 9ypc, Bell would have 495 receiving yards.
Now the goal line carries and, in turn, the TDs. Last season Bell had 19 goal line carries in his 13 games, second most in total goal line runs last season. Only Marshawn Lynch had more (26). Blount had four goal line carries last season for New England.
But how much of that volume, or lack of, was related to opportunity? After all, Blount only had 33 percent of rushes while Bell enjoyed 92% when he played.
Bell had 19 of the possible 20 goal line carries, while Blount had 4 of 22 for the Patriots. Given Bell’s 92% run rate, of 20 carries, you would expect him to carry 18.4, which he cleared. Given Blount’s 33 percent run rate, you would expect seven chances, rather than four. This is highly variable, however, especially considering the Patriots penchant for switch-a-roo running backs and roles.
If we held to the percentages of carries and made that the same at the goal line as well, then we can put Bell down for 67 percent of the GL carries and Blount 30 percent.
If the Steelers get the same 20 chances last season, a number which there is little hope of being accurate with due to long touchdown rates being flaky, turnovers, etc., then the breakdown would be 13 chances for Bell and six for Blount. Therein, Bell’s recent comments of losing goal line touches to Blount. After looking at what we’ve done here, I’d say that’s a reasonable statement.
It’s easy to understand the .62 TD rate Bell enjoyed last season when you look at the rookie gobbling up 19 of the 20 possible GL touches last season. With Blount taking a few more of those, you can easily see some deflation in Bell’s rushing TD rate this year. In a 16 game season, with a 50 percent score rate on GL carries, he’s looking at more of a seven TD season. Take that and add in a receiving touchdown among his 50+ catches, a reasonably conservative number, and Bell is right back at eight TDs for 2014.
At 1036 rushing, 495 receiving yards, 55 catches and eight touchdowns, Bell is staring at a 256.1 point season in PPR leagues. This would put him around the 10 or 11th best running back this season.
If he misses one game due to suspension, by average he would lose about 16 points off of his total, dropping him to about 14 or 15th best at the position, which would likely put him 30th overall, or a mid third round pick in 12-team PPR leagues.
As for Blount, we’ll figure he’ll be closer to his dismal final days of Tampa in 2012 than the wide open lanes in New England, where he rumbled for over 5ypc. Slotting him in the same 4 ypg as Bell seems nicely conservative. 116 carries at 4ypg is a 464 yards season, and a 50 percent success rate at the goal line should put him in the three TD range for the season. Blount is nearly non-existent in the passing game, so his footprint there, unlike everywhere else, is light.
Figuring a two catch, 20 yard season brings Blount’s total projection to 68.4 points, which would put him in the RB80 range, well below his current RB52 target, which at first glance seems surprising, but consider that last season’s big year with New England only got him to RB46. Factor in less plays per game, a better team RB1 and a team that runs less in Pittsburgh. He’s nearly undraftable here, and a week suspension would do little to affect that.
Bell dropping from a RB10 to RB15 isn’t all that surprising, neither then his slight drop from late second round to mid-third round status. Blount’s numbers in even a 16 game season reads too low a number to have to consider on draft night.
You’re probably saying, “But wait! Won’t they run more given that they’ve brought Blount in, made noise about it and even given it a cute-sy nickname?” You’d have a very good question, but the idea that a coach like Haley would change his play mix or calls based on LeGarrette Blount seems unlikely at best. Let’s look at his recent past.
Before OC with the Steelers, Haley was head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs and offensive coordinator of the Arizona Cardinals.
2007: 68 plays per game, 36 percentrushing
2008: 67 plays per game, 32 percent rushing
2009: 67 plays per game, 37 percent rushing
2010: 70 plays per game, 48 percent rushing
2011: 68 plays per game, 44 percent rushing
Factor in the past two seasons and Haley’s play rate and run rate are almost static. He’s at 38.8% rushing and that includes the Thomas Jones/Jamaal Charles rushfest in 2010 and the Kurt Warner pass-a-thon in 2008. In other words, I wouldn’t expect much difference. He’s been the same, with a couple of spikes, in terms of his plays per game and play mix.
He may not even be suspended this season, but if you want to factor in a game missed for Le’Veon Bell, it looks like the impact will be about .75 rounds or a slip from the second to third round to get good value. Even with the presence of LeGarrette Blount, Bell should hold excellent value, especially given his impact in the passing game, a place where the Steelers, and Todd Haley, spend about 63-64 percent of their plays and Blount should factor in at all.
Draft now with understanding and confidence and good luck!