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The case for taking Le'Veon Bell first overall in fantasy

Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell runs while playing the San Diego Chargers during the first half of an NFL football game Monday, Oct. 12, 2015, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)

We’ve recently concluded posting our staff consensus top 101 fantasy players for 2016, and it was the wide receiver duo of Antonio Brown and Julio Jones who grabbed the top two spots. My personal selection for No.1, Pittsburgh running back Le’Veon Bell, ranked third, but I’d suggest you might want to reconsider passing on the top running back if you do have the first overall selection in your fantasy draft.

The primary reason for taking Bell over your preferred stud wideout? Positional scarcity. It’s well-understood among fantasy gamers these days that a player’s value in a fantasy draft isn’t solely about their raw scoring power. This gives additional value to the running back position, where there are only a handful of elite-scoring options. The number of running backs playing three-down roles in the NFL seems to shrink each season, and a quick look at our projections shows that if you miss on the top-12 running backs that Danny Woodhead and Dion Lewis are suddenly viable options for you as a RB1. That’s a huge step back from the true bell-cow backs, like Bell.

If you’re an owner who doesn’t like the pressure of the number-one pick, then Bell also makes sense in my mind, because as far as selections go, he’s a pretty safe one. Now before you bite my head off regarding his injury and suspension history, that’s something you have to be able to overlook as a fantasy owner at times. Any player can get injured, and trying to factor that into your rankings can lead to you getting burnt. What fantasy analysts can project is a player’s production, and on that basis Bell is a safe pick based on his usage in the Steelers offense. He had 372 touches in 2014 and lead all backs in PPR scoring, and in his six games played in 2015 he has 137 touches (second most in that period). Bell is sure to get his in 2016 when on the field.

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