Fantasy Football 2017: Draft Ezekiel Elliott Over Le’Veon Bell

Fantasy Football 2017: Draft Ezekiel Elliott Over Le’Veon Bell

Ezekiel Elliott and Le”Veon Bell are two of the best fantasy football players. Yet, if owners need to pick between them they should draft Elliott over Bell.

We should look at this scenario like a good problem. You find yourself sitting at the top of the first round in your 2017 fantasy football draft and you narrowed your first pick down to Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott and Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell. Who do you take?

In 2016 Elliott finished as the No. 2 fantasy football running back (According to ESPN standard scoring) and Bell finished No. 4. However, Bell averaged more points per game than Elliott.

Last year, Bell played in 12 out of a possible 16 games. He missed three due to suspension and one due to rest purposes in Week 17. In those 12 games, he averaged 19.25 standard points per week. Elliott played in 15 out of 16 games and also missed Week 17 due to rest purposes. In those 15 games, he averaged 18.67 points per week. Bell’s game average was even more substantial over Elliott in PPR leagues.

According to Sporting Charts, Bell averaged 26.45 points per game while Elliott averaged 21.69 points per game in PPR leagues. Bell’s per game average in PPR leagues was even higher than Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson (25.49), who finished last season as the best fantasy football running back.

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So why exactly am I suggesting you take Elliott over Bell when he was the superior fantasy back last season when he was on the field? It’s simply because I can’t promise you Bell will be on the field for every game.

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Let me be clear; I can’t promise you any player won’t miss time. The injury bug can bite any player at any time. However, history does tell us Bell is more likely than not to miss a few games. Including the playoffs, Bell has missed time in all four of his NFL seasons. As a rookie in 2013 he missed three games due to a foot injury he suffered in the preseason. In 2014, Bell started all 16 regular season games, but he suffered a knee injury in Week 17 and missed the team’s one and only playoff game.

Then, in 2015, Bell missed the first two games of the season due to a suspension. He went on to miss another 10 games (eight in the regular season and two in the playoffs) when he tore his MCL in Week 8 against the Cincinnati Bengals. As stated before, Bell missed four games in 2016 and three of them were due to a suspension.

In all, Bell has missed 20 out of possible 70 games since entering the league in 2013. 19 of those 20 games were either due to a suspension or injury. That does not include the multiple games he started, but then left with an injury and did not return.

If I’m an owner who is picking at the top of the first-round I want a player I can count on every week. He doesn’t even necessarily have to be a home run, but he can’t be a bust either (just ask the owners who drafted Adrian Peterson last year). The fact is, Bell has more bust potential than Elliott due to his history of suspensions and injuries.

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I’ll also tell you, if Bell and Elliott both play the same amount of games in 2017, my money would be on Bell to finish with more fantasy football points. However, I’m not willing to risk the possible multi-game absence of Bell for what seems to be a safe and solid bet in Elliott. I know some of you might be thinking my logic about Bell’s suspensions is hypocritical because Elliott himself could face a suspension.

Elliott was accused of domestic violence last year and was caught exposing a woman’s breast at a St. Patrick’s parade this year. The league could absolutely determine he violated their conduct policy and suspend him. If they do, you won’t find me defending him or criticizing the league. With that said, there does not seem like there is any real momentum towards a suspension at this time. If that does happen, you better believe I’ll change my stance on this debate.

In a matter of weeks, NFL fans will witness numerous teams pass on players early in the draft due to off-the-field and/or injury concerns. As it gets deeper into the draft, teams will be more willing to take a chance on players with these issues because the reward will outweigh the risk. Fantasy Football owners need to view their drafts and their picks the same way.

If you are spending a top-three pick on a player, make sure he’s a player who can gives you the best odds of being both productive and available. Between these two running backs, Elliott provides those better odds for owners.

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