Pittsburgh Steelers tailback Le’Veon Bell is one of the most electrifying talents at his position in the NFL today. After piling up 1,291 rushing yards and adding 85 catches on his way to a second-place fantasy finish among running backs in 2017, Bell’s also a highly sought-after commodity on draft day – so much so that he’s going first overall in a number of fantasy leagues.
However, for all his talents, there’s a dark side to taking Bell early in fantasy drafts in 2018. There are a couple of valid reasons to believe that Bell can just as easily destroy fantasy teams as lead them. That among the top-five picks this year (Bell, running backs Todd Gurley, Ezekiel Elliott and David Johnson and Steelers wideout Antonio Brown) Bell easily has the best chance of blowing up in drafters’ faces.
Those reasons make drafting Bell a much dicier fantasy bet than most would lead you to believe.
When most people think of curses in football, they bring up the “Madden” curse – that misfortune awaits all those who appear on the cover of the popular video game.
Oh yeah – Tom Brady had a horrendous season a year ago. What with making it to the Super Bowl for the 37th time and winning the Most Valuable Player award — again.
It was a real tragedy.
When you mention curses in fantasy football, the first one that comes up is usually “The Curse of 370.” Long story short, if a running back goes over 370 carries in a given season, the following year is usually a mess. If you look at the historical data on that one, it actually has some teeth.
More than many know, actually.
As John Georgopoulos wrote here at Fantasy Sharks back in 2016, there’s another “Curse of 370” – this time for tailbacks who accrue more than 370 total touches in a season. It’s not quite as pronounced as the original, but if you take a look at the running backs who have surpassed that benchmark over the past decade something becomes readily apparent.
And that thing ain’t good.
RB WITH 370-PLUS TOUCHES 2007-2017
|Player||Year||Touches||Tot. Yards||TYNY||GMNY||Drop Pct.|
Of the 17 tailbacks who exceeded 370 touches from 2007-2016, two (11.8 percent) increased their yardage production the following season. Three more saw a drop-off of less than 10 percent. Two more fell off by less than 20 percent.
That means that seven of 17 running backs (41.2 percent) either at least came relatively close to the prior season’s performance or surpassed it. About four in 10.
In baseball, four successes in 10 attempts is awesome. In fantasy football? Not so much.
Conversely, six of the 17 ball-carriers (35.3 percent) saw their yardage production fall by over 50 percent the next year. Four of those backs saw their numbers nose-dive by over 65 percent the year after amassing 370-plus touches. That includes David Johnson of the Arizona Cardinals, who last year experienced the biggest drop-off of any back on this list after he suffered a season-ending wrist injury in Week 1.
There’s another theme among the backs who top 370 touches a season. The next year, they tend to get hurt. Ten of the 17 tailbacks (58.8 percent) listed here missed time the year after their 370-touch campaign and half of those backs missed at least half the following season.
On average, the 17 running backs who had over 370 touches in a season since 2007 (not including Bell in 2017) saw their yardage production decrease by 36.4 percent the following year. On average they also missed 3.7 games that next season.
Do those numbers sound like a sound return on your top-five investment? If they do, I have some oceanfront property near Yuma that I can let you have for a song.
That song. You’re welcome.