Le’Veon Bell is the number-five running back in fantasy football, and the number-six overall non-running back. He’s been stellar, accumulating 100 total yards in eight of 10 games this year and hauling in 55 passes already. There aren’t many backs in the league right now I enjoy watching more than Le’Veon– his patience, vision and versatility, all making him one of the best young backs in the game today. Fantasy owners, meanwhile, have loved owning Bell, who has scored double-digit fantasy points in all but one game this season. But when you look into the numbers and trends, you begin to notice something.
He should be even better.
Bell has just one rushing touchdown this year. One. I mean, he has more receiving scores than rushing. But it isn’t due to lack of opportunity. No. It’s due to the lack of intelligence with the Pittsburgh play callers, really. First of all. Bell has seen the second-most snaps among all running backs in the red zone this year (75), only behind Eddie Lacy of the Packers. However, for whatever reason, the Steelers and Todd Haley just aren’t inclined to feed their stud running back the rock.
So, despite playing more red zone snaps than all but one running back this season, Bell has been awarded less red zone snaps than 12 other backs, which makes no sense, especially with the way he’s played this season. And to make matters worse, Le’Veon has only seen eight carries from inside the 10-yard line this year. That’s good (or bad) for the 18th-most among rushers this season. The Steelers as a unit have played the third-most red zone snaps out of any offense in the NFL this season (100). If you can snake Le’Veon away from an owner who is getting frustrated due to the lack of touchdowns, I would 100 percent do it. This is still a player who is heavily involved in between the twenties, averaging just under 22 offensive touches per game this year. Pittsburgh’s offense should continue to create red zone opportunities, and there’s no way they continue to under-utilize one of their best players. Also, Bell’s fantasy playoff schedule is juicy, facing the Bengals, Falcons and Chiefs. Atlanta and Cincinnati rank third and fourth-worst in terms of red zone scoring attempts per game against them (3.9, 3.8).
A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals- Green only has six catches over his last two games, but he’s still working his way back from injury. Thursday night’s ugly 3-23 line was largely due to the fact that Joe Haden is playing cornerback better than anyone in football as of late, and Andy Dalton sported a whopping passer rating of 2.0. His interception total was higher. Anyway, if you can get the Pro Bowl wideout in the cheap, I’d do it in a heartbeat. If you look at his numbers in the three games prior to his injury, Green caught 17 balls for 314 yards and two touchdowns, so he was producing like the wide receiver one we have grown accustomed to seeing. Over the next four weeks, Green faces the Saints (allowing the 5th-most fantasy points to WR), Texans (2nd-most), Buccaneers (most) and Steelers (19th-most) over his next four games, too. This is still an elite talent, folks. Go get him.
Brandon Marshall, Chicago Bears- Another elite wide receiver talent who has fallen off a bit, Marshall is currently dealing with an ankle injury that forced him to leave Sunday night’s massacre early. He was limited in practice on Thursday, but this makes it even easier to buy low on him. The Bears look like a dumpster fire right now, so owners may not want to invest in anyone not named Matt Forte. I’ll take Marshall off people’s hands (and I have). He’s coming off a nice game, hauling in eight passes for 110 yards and a score. But still, that was his first strong fantasy outing since Week 6, so owners may not be sold. Buy him low, folks. Jay Cutler still has eyes for his favorite target, averaging 8.44 targets per game and seeing 10 looks in three straight contests. Also, Chicago is the league’s pass-happiest team in the red zone, throwing the ball 70.8 percent of the time when inside the 20-yard line. As a result, Marshall has seen 15 red zone targets, which puts him inside the top-five among all wideouts. And with the way this Bears defense is playing, Chicago will be forced to keep up and score plenty of points, giving Marshall even more volume.
LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles- McCoy has been one of the bigger busts in fantasy this season, but I’d still be looking to acquire him on the cheap. Things have been turning around lately, as he’s rushed for at least 80 yards in four of his last five games. The problem has been his lack of touchdowns, as he scored for just the second time all year long on Monday night. He’s still seeing strong usage, carrying the football at least 20 times in 66 percent of his contests this year. McCoy may see an uptick in scoring to end the season, as, although it’s a small sample size, but the Eagles red zone offense appears to be more efficient with Mark Sanchez under center. The Eagles also get a few matchups with teams allowing plenty of rushing touchdowns, as he’ll face the Giants (1.4 rushing scores per game), Titans (1.1), Packers (1.0) and Dallas (0.9).
Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers- Gore is coming off a nice game, totaling over 80 yards and a touchdown against the Saints. It was his biggest workload since way back in Week 4, but I’d be looking to sell high on Gore after this game, and maybe even higher after an elite matchup with a Giants defense who just allowed 350 rushing yards and four scores. Too many times have we seen the 49ers abandon Gore and the running game, and if they get closer to playoff contention, we’ll likely see more Carlos Hyde. Heck, if they get eliminated from playoff contention, we may see even more Hyde. Also, the 49ers have some tough rushing matchups down the stretch, facing Seattle twice, Washington, Arizona and the Chargers.
Martavis Bryant, Pittsburgh Steelers- Bryant has been outstanding for the Steelers over the last four weeks, hauling in 14 balls for 310 yards and six touchdowns. I think he’s the real deal, but I also think you’re doing it wrong if you don’t at least try to sell him high. I mean, an insane 42 percent of his receptions this season have gone for touchdowns. He’s also converted on 100 percent of his red zone targets for scores, too. Ben Roethlisberger isn’t going to throw for 400 yards and five or six touchdowns every week, as he regressed in Week 10. I do think he can and will remain fantasy relevant for the rest of the season, but he’s going to see some touchdown regression. If he didn’t haul in a long, 80-yard garbage time score last week, he already would have.