Is Le’Veon Bell a good fantasy option to replace J.K. Dobbins?

How should fantasy managers approach the Baltimore Ravens backfield now that they have signed Le'Veon Bell to help replace J.K. Dobbins?

After an injury rocked the Baltimore Ravens’ backfield, the eyes of the fantasy football community turned to the potential signing of Le’Veon Bell. And now, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports that the Ravens are, in fact, signing Bell to their practice squad. From there, he will likely be added to the 53-man roster when ready.

Could Le’Veon Bell be a value for fantasy leagues with the Baltimore Ravens?

Bell’s career stats make interesting reading. It has been a while since Bell has proven to be fantasy-relevant. Since finishing as a top-five overall player three times in four years between 2014 and 2017, he has not been a top-60 fantasy option since. He sat out 2018 before struggling with the New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs in 2019 and 2020.

Despite the team winning the AFC Championship and going to the Super Bowl, Bell’s role in Kansas City was somewhat limited, seeing just 63 carries in 9 games. Unfortunately, the opportunities narrative might limit Bell’s upside now that he has signed with Baltimore.

Even though they led the league as a team in carries in 2020 (555), the Ravens did not have a player eclipse 160 rushing attempts. The only player to top 150 was QB Lamar Jackson. That is where the issue would sit for Bell — could he consistently see enough attempts to be a trusted fantasy option in Baltimore?

Fantasy expectations from Bell in Baltimore?

In 2020, Gus Edwards led the RBs in touches with 153. J.K. Dobbins was narrowly behind him at 152. Both managed to be fantasy-relevant, but mainly because they were hyper-efficient with those touches. Bell would likely have to do the same if he were to provide regular fantasy value.

Prior to 2019, Bell was generally efficient with his touches. He averaged between 4.8 and 5.9 yards per touch between 2014 and 2017. Some of that was thanks to his receiving skills, but he also averaged 4.7-4.9 yards per rush between 2014 and 2016.

There is the potential for more touches for Bell in 2021 with the Ravens. In 2019, Mark Ingram saw 228 touches and converted that into an 11th overall finish in fantasy leagues. However, it is hard to imagine Bell taking that many touches away from the combination of Edwards and Ty’Son Williams.

What would be the impact on Gus Edwards?

The most likely outcome now that the Ravens have signed Bell may be a net negative for fantasy managers. Immediately after J.K. Dobbins’ injury, it looked as though Edwards could fill that Ingram role from 2019 (228 touches). He would then be supported by Williams, filling the role Edwards served in 2019 (140 touches).

Yet, the signing of Bell will muddy those waters. We would potentially see a three-way split of the touches, similar to what we saw last year. That would leave all three of Bell, Edwards, and Williams as unreliable fantasy options on a weekly basis.

Ben Rolfe is a Senior Managing Editor at Pro Football Network and is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA). You can find him on Twitter @BenRolfePFN.