3-Point Stance: ‘Monster’ Martavis could be fantasy steal in middle rounds
As the mercury rises, Brad Evans and Liz Loza will tackle pressing fantasy questions tied to every NFL team. Read, ponder and get a jump on your offseason research. Wednesday’s topic: The Pittsburgh Steelers
Rumblings out of Steel City suggest Le’Veon Bell might see a reduced workload heading into 2017. OVER/UNDER 399.5 total touches for the Burgh’s top back?
Liz – UNDER. In his sole 16-game effort, Bell touched the ball a total of 373 times, averaging 18 carries and 5 receptions per game. In 2016, those numbers ballooned, as the workhorse maxed out at nearly 22 carries and over 6 catches per contest. But that was without key weapons – like Martavis Bryant and Heath Miller – on the field.
There may be few options behind Bell (rookie James Conner and Chiefs cast-off Knile Davis), but Bryant’s return in combination with the development of young talent hint at more offensive flexibility. Plus, the Steelers have to keep Bell healthy if they’re ever going to get past the Patriots in the postseason. I’m confident Bell will produce top-five fantasy numbers, but I’d be shocked if he goes over 350 total touches (18 carries and 3.5 receptions per outing).
Brad – UNDER. An ongoing contract dispute and worries Le’Veon, who isn’t cast from titanium, may not remain upright if thrust into a vigorous workload have some gamers questioning his top-three overall status. I’m not one of those individuals. The difference between Bell, David Johnson and Zeke Elliott, whether PPR or standard, is Mr. Mackey thin. Mmmm, kay.
Bell is the Secretariat of workhorses. Last season, he amassed 28 touches per game which shook out to 261 carries, 75 receptions and 93.5 percent of the opportunity share. And he tallied that over 12 games. Burdensome. Adding hometown product James Connor and Knile Davis this offseason indicates: 1) A contingency plan in case long-term deal isn’t reached, 2) Needed insurance policies if the injury imp bites.
Fantasy owners should fully support a reduction. Bell, who ranked No. 1 in yards after contact (41.4) AND evaded tackles per game (8.4) is a model of efficiency. Totaling 20-22 grips per contest would obviously help keep him off the trainer’s table. I believe the Mike Tomlin and Todd Haley agree.
Current ADP data has Martavis Bryant coming off the board in the sixth round of 12-team exercises (WR29). Reinstated after two suspensions, will the Alien BOOM or BUST?
Brad – BOOM. When it comes to Martavis and his WR29 draft status it’s more like ‘Steal City.’ Am I right?
Bryant, hopefully done with the magic carpet rides, is about to storm back with a vengeance. He always possessed the length, speed and separation skills needed to terrorize NFL DBs deep downfield. His 14 career TDs in 21 games and 17.3 average yards per catch point to his destruction. The last time fantasy owners had the pleasure of watching him, in 2015, he ranked WR20 in points per game, WR11 in points per opportunity and tallied a very healthy 15.3 average depth of target (aDOT).
Every player looks like an All-Pro in shorts, but Big Ben’s recent superlatives expressed about Bryant hold water. He’s a special talent who is nearly impossible to contain on streak routes in single coverage. Working opposite the NFL’s best wide receiver, Antonio Brown, he should post sick numbers this fall. Stay off the wacky tobacky, suit up 16 times and he nets a 65-1,050-8 season. Spicy.
Liz – BOOM. I believe in aliens. While the summer is often the season of hyperbole, Bryant’s recommitment to football appears legit. From being talked up by Ben Roethlisberger to adding 10 pounds of muscle to welcoming a son this past March, the 25-year-old, from all accounts, looks to be a changed man. Or, at least, changed enough to avoid a third suspension.
Regardless, the Steelers are a better team with him on the field. And they’ll do whatever they can to ensure that he makes the decisions necessary to stay out of trouble. Lining up opposite Antonio Brown and boasting a catch radius in the ninety-fourth percentile, Bryant’s upside is too good to pass up.
In what could be his last professional outing, will Ben Roethlisberger close out the year OVER or UNDER a final fantasy rank of QB10.5?
Liz – UNDER. He’s not retiring yet. Though at 35-years-old Big Ben’s (third) Super Bowl window is beginning close. Having spent solid chunks of time on the trainer’s table in recent seasons, it makes sense that the Steelers’ signal caller is thinking about life after football. But behind a top-five ranked pass blocking unit and surrounded by playmakers, there’s a solid chance the five-time Pro Bowler closes out 2017 with studly stats. Just two years removed from a top-five fantasy finish, Roethlisberger is in a situation to succeed… and finally knock off the Pats in the divisional round.
Brad – OVER. Haley is traditionally an aggressive play-caller. Though I don’t expect that to change and given the return of Bryant coupled with fellow dynamos Brown and Bell plus JuJu Smith-Schuster, many, understandably, are man-crushing hard on Big Ben. However, I’m pressing pause. Bryant’s absence in 2016 played a factor, but the passer declined in several categories, most notably overall completion percentage (’16: 64.4; ’15: 68.0), deep-ball completion percentage (39.3; 43.5) and red-zone completion percentage (54.8; 56.9).
Because of Roethlisberger’s advanced age (35) along with his visible battle scars and retirement flirtations, smart money says he finishes outside the top-10. Best case, he’s Philip Rivers ’16 (4,390 yards, 33 TDs). Worst case, Carson Palmer (4,237, 26). Most likely he lands somewhere in the middle.