Bargain Hunting: Why You Should Draft Joique Bell

C.D. Carter's picture

By C.D. Carter (4for4 Contributor) on June 4, 2014

C.D. is a journalist and writer specializing in quarterback streaming. Carter's work has been featured in the New York Times Fifth Down blog, and he was nominated for the Fantasy Sports Writers Association's 2012 newcomer of the year award. He's the author of "How To Think Like a Fantasy Football Winner." Follow C.D. on Twitter: CDCarter13.

The guy who finished 2013 as fantasy football’s 15th highest scoring running back was largely a complementary player who, in point per reception (PPR) leagues, notched one fantasy point for every single time he touched the football.

That’s Detroit Lions running back Joique Bell, of course, and despite a steady flow of reports charging that Bell will take a bigger share of the Detroit backfield pie in 2014, his average draft position (ADP) at time of writing remains in the middle of the 6th round.

This season, Bell will be a foundational piece for fantasy squads that invest heavily in elite wide receivers early on, and I, for one, agree wholeheartedly with 4for4’s ranking of Bell as one of this season’s screaming bargains. He’s among the players with 4for4’s highest bargain scores for the coming season. (ADP Bargains Tool)

4for4, in fact, has Bell ranked one spot ahead of his backfield mate, Bush. That's both bold and spot on. It should grab the attention of anyone and everyone who has tabbed Bush as a draft day target.

Bell’s ADP might even fall in the coming weeks as Detroit beat writers don’t expect Bell to be on the practice field before training camp. He’s struggling with knee tendonitis that gave him fits through parts of the 2013 campaign.

Bell handled 37 percent of the team’s carries in 2013, thanks in part to Reggie Bush missing two games with various ailments. Bell handled double-digit touches nine times in his 16 contests last season, posting remarkable per-touch efficiency along the way.

 

Lions RBs in 2013 - Fantasy Points Per Touch

Player 

Touches

Touches/Game

FP/Touch (STD)

Joique Bell

219

13.7

0.76

Reggie Bush

277

19.8

0.68

 

The above numbers use standard fantasy scoring. Bell, as I mentioned, averaged an unbelievable one point per touch in PPR formats in 2013. Bush’s average of .88 wasn’t too shabby either.

I think it’s important to note that Bell, in the heaping, flaming garbage dump that was the 2012 Detroit Lions offense, posted a hefty .80 point per touch in standard scoring and a white-hot 1.1 fantasy points per touch in PPR. He’s done quite a bit with somewhat limited opportunities so far, and he’s shown that his passing games chops make him far more than a two-down bruiser.

 

Truly A 'Split Role'?

New Lions offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi has said he sees the team’s running back duo having a “split role” in 2014. This should result in an increased workload for Bell at the expense of Reggie Bush, particularly in the run game. 

Bush never eclipsed 157 carries during Lombardi’s time on the New Orleans Saints offensive staff. He was a part of the Saints multi-headed running attack from 2006-2010.

That’s not to say that we can’t tab Bush for more than 150 carries or so – this is an entirely different situation with different personnel and Bush has shown that he can do a pretty good imitation of a traditional running back when given the chance. Reggie, who turned 29 in March, has averaged a very respectable 4.6 yards per carry over the past three seasons.

(Lombardi also has something of a history with Bell, as the runner was on the New Orleans practice squad in 2011.)

 

Bottom Line

This all makes Bell a clear target for as a mid-round value at running back.

Fantasy owners are drafting Bush near the end of the second round. It’s hardly an egregious reach as we saw last season during early runs of running backs. But if we expect Bell and Bush to share the load fairly evenly in 2014, AND Bell has been putting up more fantasy points per touch, why pay for the guy going in the second round when we can roll with the option available three rounds later?

Bush has the name recognition here. He also has the style points and the years of highlight reel catches, jukes, and open field excellence that have defined his pro career.

Bell, by comparison, is quite boring; workmanlike, you might say, and you wouldn't be wrong. But it’s his efficiency that should seize our attention as we look for arbitrage running back plays that make an early-round wide receiver approach viable in 2014.

 

(Check out our Draft Day Bargains Tool for more ADP bargains, customizable for your league)

 

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Filed Under: 2014, Preseason