Cardinals (NFL)

Who to Draft: David Johnson vs Le’Veon Bell – A. Haage

by Anthony Haage

David Johnson and Le’Veon Bell ADP’s are 5 and 6 according to and both players reflect their ADP’s well. Both players had down years considering how good they’ve been the past two years which leave fantasy players with some questions going into this upcoming year.

In Pittsburgh, Le’Veon Bell was a fantasy monster. Across 5 years, and a completely empty 2018, Bell averaged 12.4 games/year, 24.85 touches/game, 128.96 total yards/game, and scored 42 TDs in 62 games

Bell has been a great fantasy player during the years he has been able to play most of the games. He ranked as RB14 (13 games) his rookie year, RB2 (16 games) his sophomore season, RB45 (6 games) his third year, RB5 (12 games) his fourth year, and RB2 (15 games) in his last complete season in 2017. So, in seasons where Bell played at least 12 games, he ranked outside RB5 just once = and that was his rookie season!

Last year was a completely lost year for him as he sat out due to contract disputes. Bell will likely regain his form throughout preseason and practicing up until week 1. Now the changing of teams is the new question behind Bell. The Jets ranked 23rd in points per game last year while Pittsburgh ranked 6th. In terms of fantasy preference, the Steelers are the team you want to have your players on, while the Jets are a work in progress.

Adam Gase is the new coach in New York and in his past three years of coaching in Miami, the numbers have not been pretty. Gase’s offenses ranked 17th, 28th and 26th (average 23rd) in scoring, while his running backs have ranked 9th, 29th, and 18th (average 18th) in yards, and 15th, 31st, and 30th (average 25th) in scoring. However, Sam Darnold will be in his second year and could develop into a reliable QB which would boost Le’Veon Bell’s fantasy points as well.

The Jets signed Bell to a $52.5 million deal for four years, so Bell is sure to be the lead guy in New York despite the fact that Gase disagreed with ex-Jets GM, Mike Maccagnan, with signing a RB for that much. I would project Bell to get around 300 touches (50 rec, 250 rush attempts) with a sure chance to get between 1400-1700 total yards if he can stay on the field. Bell could also reach double digits in touchdowns.

David Johnson has a similar situation to Bell considering the offense surrounding him. Like Bell, Johnson has a new coach, a young QB, and an offense that has struggled in recent years. Arizona was dead last in PPG last year with a measly 14.1 PPG. However, Arizona made some serious changes throughout this offseason.

The Cardinals added Kyler Murray with their first overall pick, and moved last years first round pick, Josh Rosen, to Miami for a second-round pick (Andy Isabella) and a 2020 fifth round pick. The Cardinals also signed new coach Kliff Kingsbury to a 4-year deal. Kingsbury’s recent years of coaching have been spent at Texas Tech (2013-18). He has also been the offensive coordinator at Texas A&M (2012) and Houston (2010-2011).

Digging into Kingsbury’s offensive numbers at Texas Tech, the Red Raiders averaged 485.2 yards/game and scored 54 offensive TD’s in 12 games (4.5 per game). Texas Tech’s rankings in yards/game were 12th and 24th in the FBS. Kingsbury’s offense should transfer well to the NFL and should boost David Johnson’s fantasy points from last year’s horror show.

In the miserable last year the Cardinals offense had, David Johnson posted impressive numbers considering the situation. Johnson registered 1,386 total yards (940 rushing, 446 receiving) with 10 TD’s (7 rushing, 3 receiving). Johnson’s golden year was his sophomore season in 2016. Johnson went off for 2,118 total yards (1239 rushing, 879 receiving) with 20 TD’s (16 rushing, 4 receiving).

David Johnson has ranked well in his 4 years in the NFL, as far as fantasy production goes. Johnson ranked as RB7 in his rookie year, RB1 and the top ranked fantasy player in 2016, RB120 in 2017 (season ending broken wrist in week one), and RB10 in 2018. With the new additions in the Cardinals offense, I would project Johnson to have a huge comeback year and could produce numbers like he did in 2016. I would aim for Johnson to get close to 2,000 total yards, and 15+ TD’s.

To conclude, I would choose David Johnson over Le’Veon Bell. I would take David Johnson because I think he has a higher upside this year in his projected electric offense. Johnson is 100% worth a top 5 draft choice, although Bell would not be far behind. Take Johnson this year and don’t look back.

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