2014 Speed Bump 10: Bell vs. Bernard vs. Lynch – Sponsored by The Xs and Ys Guide to Fantasy Football (John Evans)
Marshawn Lynch, we are coming for you – and doing it with two second-year running backs from the AFC North in Giovani Bernard and Le’Veon Bell, both of whom now somewhat surprisingly edge out the workhorse and recent Super Bowl champion “Beast Mode” in ADP. With the three new options in today’s poll, the probability of getting all of the polls to date correct goes to 1 in 250,000 (248,832 to be exact). To help us sort this one out, FFW welcomes John Evans from The Xs and Ys Guide to Fantasy Football.
The narrative on Le’Veon Bell’s rookie season can go multiple ways. On the one hand, Bell averaged just a paltry 3.5 YPC. On the other hand, Bell returned from a Lisfranc injury and missed just three games, while from Week 4 through the rest of the season Bell was the 7th best fantasy back, logging 1,259 total yards with 45 receptions and 8 TDs.
Giovani Bernard spent a good chunk of his rookie season watching BenJarvus Green-Ellis rush the ball (BGE had 220 rushing attempts versus 170 for Bernard) but it’s a new season and Bernard looks to be locked in as the Bengals’ starting running back for 2014, albeit with the team having added Jeremy Hill in the 2nd round. Bernard totaled 1,209 yards in his rookie season, along with 56 receptions and 8 TDs.
What a three-year run it has been for Marshawn Lynch, who compiled over 4,000 yards rushing and averaged almost exactly 300 rushing attempts per season. Can Lynch continue strong for one more season, strong enough to surpass these second-year running backs?
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Bell vs. Bernard vs. Lynch, John Evans selects (07/23/14): Le’Veon Bell.
Marshawn Lynch has been the fulcrum of the Seattle offense, but even in his peak seasons he wasn’t a pass-catcher. That caps his upside in PPR. But now Lynch is legitimately threatened by a young stud behind him on the depth chart, Christine Michael. Given Lynch’s monster mileage and big cap number, Seattle will want to see if they have a Baby Beast Mode on the roster. That would allow them to let Lynch walk, if need be, after this season. Losing 50 carries, as many predict, puts Lynch last in this trio.
It seems very unlikely that Giovani Bernard could hold up under the same workload Bell and Lynch have already shouldered. He’s not that kind of back. Gio could conceivably have a PPR season for the ages, catching 70 to 80 balls and making big plays aplenty en route to double-digit touchdowns and 1500 total yards. But it not the likeliest outcome, given the caliber of quarterback he’s playing with (Timothy Dalton might be more talented) and the presence of a better Ben-Jarvus Green-Ellis in rookie banger Jeremy Hill. Many will give Gio the nod and I can see it happening, but I think the Bengals backfield will be more of a time-share than the coaching staff’s remarks currently indicate.
I choose Le’Veon Bell because usage equals fantasy football points and I don’t expect his touches per game to drop very much in 2014. Meanwhile, his efficiency will increase, including yards-per-carry. LeGarrette Blount was brought in to lessen the load on Le’Veon, but Blount is an early-down back with zero pass-catching ability. He’s also shown little facility at the goal-line plunge and is unlikely to become a TD vulture now. Blount is a big-play runner who can start if need be, but his role in Pittsburgh will be to keep the incumbent fresh and healthy. Le’Veon Bell Cow will remain a focal point of the Steelers’ increasingly potent offense, a true feature back. He should easily surpass his 2013 totals and that goes for receptions, too — pencil him in for 50 catches.
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About The Xs and Ys Guide to Fantasy Football: Known for their ability to charm audiences while also delivering spot-on analysis, the duo of Liz Loza and John Evans have been developing their on-air chemistry since 2011. Consistently a top 15 podcast in its iTunes category, the Xs and Ys Podcast offers an unfiltered, often outrageous take on the NFL. Instead of a couple of dudes droning on about stats and deciphering coach-speak, this show has ONE dude like that… AND The Fantasy Football Girl! Together, they help listeners crush their foes like empty beer cans. For a fun, female perspective on fantasy football along with all those x’s and o’s… this is your show!