It happened again.
News broke on Friday that Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell is facing yet another suspension to begin his season. Bell didn’t fail a drugs test, he simply missed it, but in the eyes of the league it is of course worth punishment. The reason he is ‘facing’ suspension and not officially suspended is because it is being appealed, but unfortunately with his history, even if it is reduced the long term ramifications are huge. He is now treading on very thin ice with the league. Why do players do this? Perhaps because being guilty of failing the test may have a lot more negative impact than being guilty of looking stupid, but in both circumstances the player is in trouble.
Let’s take a look around the dynasty landscape and the knock-on effects Bell’s suspension might have.
Le’Veon Bell, RB PIT
For most dynasty owners, Bell has been the top back on their board for a very long time (in the dynasty running back world, a couple of years at the top is a very long time). I was at Wembley Stadium for Bell’s first game in the NFL – a thrilling 34-27 Vikings win, with a two touchdown performance from a rookie Bell. He certainly looked good then, but he burst out in his sophomore year and hasn’t looked back since. Unfortunately, as amazing as he has been on the field (the clear most consistent top 24 back over the last three years), he’s had multiple knee injuries, and now multiple suspensions. But there is a silver lining with this suspension:
I now believe Le’veon Bell will probably be healthy for the start of his season. 😉
— Scott Fish (@ScottFish24) July 22, 2016
Make your decision right now – do you believe he will overcome these problems? If the answer is yes, there will be no better time to buy him until after his prime years in a dominant offense. Four weeks, in the grand scheme of things, doesn’t change his dynasty trajectory. If not, I would still hold him until he returns to the field, then take that chance to offload him and acquire a more reliable professional. Either way, it will be tough to him to return to being regarded as the top overall dynasty back again, considering those close to him and the talent in the 2017 NFL Draft.
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Williams was a league winner last year, racking up 11 touchdowns and over 1200 yards from scrimmage. He is nine years older than Bell, and showed that true stars can play well beyond their supposed prime years. If you have Williams in your dynasty squad, then you probably feel great about it right now – as you should. However, you have a decision to make: stick with him and enjoy first round production from someone who will continue to be valued way below that? Or use this opportunity to move him to a owner hungry for immediate production before he finally fizzles out? At 33 years old, this might be the last time he experiences a value spike. If you’re using some form of late/zero running back strategy, Williams will give you a great chance to win at the position for four weeks. However, if he’s a complement to other young startable talent you are building around, then take this opportunity to test the market on potential buyers.
Toussaint was half decent after both Bell and Williams were out last year and might be worth a pickup up in the off chance Williams suffers an injury, but the chances of that happening and him holding any real value after week four are slim. However, if you believe Bell may have an extended suspension, put his foot in it again or have any lingering effects from last year’s knee injury, then by all means make Toussant a waiver priority.
Ben Roethlisberger, QB PIT
Big Ben is probably wondering what he has done to deserve this. First, Martavis Bryant is suspended for the year, and now Bell adds to the Steelers problems with the suspension of his own. At this point of his career however, I don’t think this will hold back Roethlisberger’s individual performance and statistics. He continues to provide a QB2 floor with an opportunity at a top 12 finish every single week, and sits at QB6 in dynasty ADP. I do actually think this is a little high, as there are enough quarterbacks around who provide similar numbers but are much cheaper to acquire. But as long as Antonio Brown is still the best receiver in the league, Roethlisberger is a great player to have on your team. This won’t change with Bell being out.
Similarly to my comments on the quarterback, the receiver’s dynasty prospects should not change too much. As the team showed when Bell was out for extended time last year, they have outstanding firepower and there is more than enough fantasy production to go around. Antonio Brown remains a stud/superstar/elite receiver.
Of the three others, my bet for breakout after Bryant’s suspension is Sammie Coates. Our Jeff Haverlack is a believer in Wheaton, but I don’t think he will go on to be more than decent role player who can be a third or fourth option in an offense, and Heyward-Bey has done well to stick around this long after such a tumultuous start to his career but doesn’t have a refined all-around game. Coates is certainly primarily a deep threat, but I believe there are some parts of his game that will show improvement in year two and he will every chance to prove it on the field. Earlier this off-season, the 2015 third round pick admitted conditioning was his downfall in his rookie campaign and that he played about ten pounds over his preferred weight. I like Coates’ size/speed combination, and he can be a huge weapon for this Steelers offense.
Will the team adopt a strategy of employing more wideouts and tight ends on the field so as not to overwork Williams? We can’t be sure of how Green and James will be utilised yet, but if the production of Heath Miller is anything to go by, they will be fed. Green never really got his chance in San Diego, but now a starter in a more prolific offense and entering the tight end golden years, I’m sure he will be an every week starter in your teams.
In the July ADP Data, Gurley snuck above Bell into the RB1 spot. Now, he might pull away even further. After hearing the Bell news, I immediately thought Gurley and Elliott would be in a battle for that dynasty RB1 spot, however some reports have come out on Elliott that may tarnish his reputation in the league and value in dynasty. I won’t comment on them until we hear further developments, but with that lingering it seems Gurley holds the most value of all backs in dynasty football – and rightly so. I’m extremely excited to see his improvement after an outstanding rookie year. The Bell news could also mean a chance for the ‘clean’ David Johnson to rise in value as the only back at the top without off-field or injury question marks, but it’s the on-field question marks that make him perhaps my most valuable sell this off-season.
James can be found on Twitter at @JS_Football