Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell (26).
- After sitting out a full season, Le'Veon Bell will play the 2019 season for the New York Jets.
- Matthew Freedman makes his picks for Bell's 2019 props, complete with his own projections for the Jets running back.
Former Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell is no longer unemployed. He has reportedly signed a four-year, $52.5 million deal with the New York Jets.
It’s easy to question the wisdom of Bell’s 2018 holdout.
But that’s the past. For 2019, Bell is poised to be a fantasy football star.
The only question is how much of a star he’ll be. Here’s my analysis of Bell’s 2019 player props.
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Le’Veon Bell’s Rushing Yards: Over/Under 1200.5
- Over 1,200.5: -115
- Under 1,200.5: -115
Over the past half decade, Bell has hit the over in every season in which he has played at least 12 games.
- 2014 (16 games): 1,361 yards
- 2016 (12 games): 1,268 yards
- 2017 (15 games): 1,291 yards
And in his injury-shortened 2015 campaign, he still averaged a strong 92.7 rushing yards per game.
He’s a great runner.
But he has missed five games in his career to suspension. And he missed 10 games in 2015 to injury. And he also sat out the entire 2018 season seemingly in part because he just felt like it.
Given his past and the position he plays, there’s a real chance Bell could miss multiple games this year.
With the Steelers, Bell was a clear lead back. In 2016, he had 21.8 carries per game; in 2017, 21.4. But Jets head coach Adam Gase has rarely relied on just one back throughout his career as a play caller. Instead, he tends to split the work in his backfields.
But for a period of 20 games (including playoffs), Jay Ajayi was the starter for Gase’s 2016-17 Dolphins, and over that stretch Ajayi averaged 19.8 carries per game.
So let’s assume that Bell gets 20 carries per game.
As Gase’s starter, Ajayi averaged 4.3 yards per carry. For his career, Bell has an identical 4.3 yards per carry.
I’m not very impressed with the Jets’ offensive line, which had a league-worst 3.59 adjusted line yards per carry last season (per Football Outsiders), but the line should be improved via the addition of left guard Kelechi Osemele.
If Bell plays 16 games with his career average 4.3 yards per carry, our projections give him 1,376 yards rushing.
But I’m viewing that projection as something of a best-case scenario. What happens if Bell misses a couple of games to injury or is hampered by an underwhelming system led by second-year quarterback Sam Darnold and overseen by a guy whose offense ranked 31st in yardage in 2018?
If Bell plays 14 games and averages 19 carries per game with the 4.0 yards he averaged in 2017, that would give him 1,090.6 yards.
I don’t really want to bet against a player of Bell’s talent, but I also can see how he’d fall short of the mark.
The Pick: Pass
Le’Veon Bell’s Receiving Yards: Over/Under 600.5
- Over 600.5: -115
- Under 600.5: -115
Bell is one of the best pass-catching backs in the league, and over the past half decade he’s averaged 6.8 targets and 46.1 yards receiving per game.