Le'Veon Bell is the Fantasy Workhorse Adam Gase has Been Eyeing - Roto Street Journal
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Le’Veon Bell is the Fantasy Workhorse Adam Gase has Been Eyeing

The drama whore of the NFL didn’t disappoint during the legal tampering period of NFL free agency. After sitting out the entire 2018 season and passing on the best contract he’s ever been offered, Le’Veon Bell finally chose the New York Jets (4 yrs, $52 million) just as the clock hit Wednesday morning — after his mixtape dropped, of course. At first glance, it would be easy to slap a Stock Down on the former All-Pro running back. He’s entering an Adam Gase-led offense, where we all have PTSD of his Jay Ajayi and Kenyan Drake usage. However, he’s more than willing to hand over the every-down workhorse reigns to a legit workhorse. Enter Bell — the league’s premiere prototype three-down back.

When Gase was talking about Ajayi’s inconsistent role back in 2016, it seemed like he wanted to give Ajayi a workhorse role. However, Ajayi’s hands, or lack-thereof, made it difficult for Gase to completely commit to the back — which led to a mid-season trade.

“Any time you’re playing that spot in this offense, you have to be able to do it all,” Gase told reporters on Monday, specifically in response to a question about Ajayi’s receiving skills. “It’s not a one-trick pony type of offense. You have to be able to protect. You have to be able to run the ball. You have to be able to catch. So we really don’t believe in, ‘Hey, you’re just a first- and second-down back.’ I don’t know what that means. We look for guys that can stay on the field all three downs because we’re not looking to ‘sub’ personnel. We want guys that can be in great shape, stay out there and then, if we need to switch somebody out because we’re having a long drive, then so be it. But really, whoever the guy is that we’re starting with in the series, that’s the guy I want to finish.”

With those quotes from Gase, it’s clear the coach has been fiending for a legit horse for a few seasons now. In fact, Gase oversaw four straight RB1 seasons from 2013-2016: Knowshon Moreno finished with 1,586 yards from scrimmage (YFS) and 13 total TDs; CJ Anderson racked up nearly 1,200 yards and 10 total TDs in only seven 2014 starts; Matt Forte tallied 1,287 YFS and 7 TDs in just 13 games in 2015, then Ajayi hit 1,423 YFS and 8 TDs in 12 starts. So even though we thought Ajayi or Drake would’ve been featured backs in this offense, maybe neither fit Gase’s specific three-down attributes. Although Bell’s ‘Usage’ will likely take a hit from his Steelers days, he will still be utilized as a workhorse.

It’s been 84 years [roughly] since we were blessed with Bell’s talents, so it’s good to have a refresher on just how damn good of a running back he is. The last time we saw him was back in January of 2018 when the Steelers underachieved yet again in a playoff loss to the Jags. However, Bell was the most talented player on the field that day. He accounted for 67 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries, and added nine receptions for 88 yards and a score. That type of statline is what Bell owners been blessed with on a weekly basis.

From a ‘Surrounding Talent’ standpoint, it’s tough to compete with Ben RoethlisbergerAntonio BrownJuJu Smith-Schuster and the Steelers’ road grading offensive line that was ranked first by PFF. There will be a hit here, but it might not be as much as expected. They have a future franchise quarterback in Sam Darnold and three very solid wideouts in Roby “Cum Cave” AndersonQuincy Enunwa and the recently added Jamison Crowder.

On the contrary, the Jets offensive line is not even on the same earth as Pittsburgh’s, ranking 30th in 2017 and 25th in 2018. But, they were among the better teams running the outside zone concept, as their backs averaged 2.07 yards before contact on these runs, the third-most in the league. The outside zone is a staple of Gase’s offense, which is where Ajayi and Drake did most of their damage. Luckily, that’s where Bell does most of his damage. It also doesn’t hurt that they added former Raiders’ guard, Kelechi Osemele, who before battling injuries throughout 2018, was one of the league’s most dominant guards. So even though it doesn’t compare to the perfect situation in the yellow and black, it’s still not as poor as it it initially seemed.

For all the potential positives, Le’Veon’s risks are still for real. I mean, the dude sat out an entire season in his prime! We love giving the Steelers shit for their dysfunction, but they’re still a superior franchise compared to the Jets. The 2x All-Pro has yet to be on a losing team and he has yet to play with a young quarterback. The Jets should be better than they were last season, but would Bell quit on his team if they start off slow or if he’s not getting his desired number of touches right away? Hopefully the diva will be happy with his new contract (which can also be said about his former teammate) and embrace the grind of being on a team that’s trending in a positive direction.

Overall, this is a prime example of why one should not judge a book by its cover. Even though Gase has recently been frustrating, he has a workhorse-riding past, and it wouldn’t make sense for the team to pay Bell that type of money to even consider any sort of committee. The Jets have been putrid on the line and as an overall offense for the past few seasons, yet have flashed signs of a major offensive turnaround. Simply put — there’s some sneakily massive upside once you peel back the layers here.

Still, does he crack the first round? As of now, our rankings say he’s a late-first, early-second rounder (RB7).

Ceiling Projection: 400 touches, 2,000 total yards and 11 touchdowns

Floor Projection: 270 touches, 1,300 total yards and 8 touchdowns

Actual Projection: 360 touches, 1,750 total yards and 10 touchdowns

Get excited. Le’Veon Bell is back.

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