1 Vs 1 RB Edition: Le'Veon Bell Vs David Johnson
In this series I'm going to compare two similarly ranked and drafted running backs putting them up against each other, and comparing them in a variety of categories such as 2016 stats, quality of offensive line, draft pedigree, age, combine results, measurables, teams time of possession, percentage of rushing attempts, snaps played, PFF grades, and depth chart competition. In an attempt to determine which of the two players will be the superior dynasty asset. In this edition I'm going to compare arguably the two top running backs in dynasty, Le'Veon Bell and David Johnson. Both of these players are the centerpiece of their teams offense and catch more passes than a lot of teams top wide receivers do. When it comes to PPR scoring these two are the cream of the crop and are truly elite in every sense of the word.
These two had incredible 2016 stat lines, David Johnson emerged as one of the leagues top running backs exploding for 1239 rushing yards on 293 carries and 16 touchdowns averaging 4.2 yards per carry. Those stats alone would have made for a top ten finish among runningbacks, now add in his 80 receptions for 879 yards and 4 touchdowns, for an average of 11.0 yards per reception, and it's among the best fantasy seasons in recent history. Bell rushed 261 times for 1268 yards and 7 touchdowns averaging 4.9 yards per carry, adding 75 receptions for 616 yards and 2 touchdowns, for an average of 8.2 yards per reception. Now if Bell's stats weren't impressive enough he managed to do all of that in just 12 games averaging 26-28 PPR fantasy points per game depending on scoring. PFF favored Bell grading him as there top runningback with a 91.9 grade, I have Bell as my number 1 runningback. Johnson graded out as PFF's 3rd overall runningback with an 87.8 grade, I have Johnson as my number 3 ranked runningback. Advantage: Bell
A big part of running back success is tied to the quality of a teams offensive line, as we have seen time and time again a mid level running back with a top tier offensive line can have comparable stats with a much better running back with a questionable offensive line. Bell has the distinct advantage when it comes to quality of offensive line, in 2016 Pittsburgh's offensive line graded out as the 3rd overall offensive line according to PFF, in 2017 they are also projected to be the 3rd best O-line. Arizona's Offensive line graded out 26th overall in 2016 and is projected to be improved at 17th in 2017, due to drafting a guard and a tackle in the 4th and 5th round of this years NFL draft. It's almost scary to think that one of the best runningbacks in the league is going to potentially have a vastly improved offensive line when he returns in 2018. Coincidentally both teams averaged 30:26 time of possession last season, but Pittsburgh ran the ball on 41.1% of there offensive plays last season compared to Arizona rushing 36.7% of the time. Advantage: Bell
When it comes to age, measurables, combine results, and draft pedigree, these two have a lot of similarities. Both players are 25 years old and in the prime of their careers, despite being born in different years they are only three months apart in age, with Johnson being slightly younger. These two are nearly identical in size as Bell is listed at 6'1, 225 pounds and Johnson listed at 6'1, 224 pounds. Johnson had himself an incredible combine running a 4.50, 40, posting a 127” broad jump, and an insane 41.5” vertical. Bell was behind Johnson in all combine results as he posted a 4.60, 40 time, a 118” broad jump and a 31.5” vertical, 10 inches less than Johnson's ridiculous jump. Both were drafted as day two runningbacks, with Bell being selected with the 16th pick of the 2nd round 48th overall in the 2013 draft, and Johnson being selected with the 22nd pick of the 3rd round 86th overall in the 2015 draft. Advantage: Johnson
Both of these players rarely leave the field and rightfully so, Johnson played 964 snaps last season with 90 of them being in pass protection, he graded out as a 50.8 pass blocker according to PFF. Bell played 907 snaps in 12 games being asked to pass protect on 75 snaps putting up an impressive 83.0 pass blocking grade. There is no question that both players are the number one option on their respective teams, with David Johnson only having, Kerwynn Williams, Adrian Peterson, and rookie TJ Logan behind him. Pittsburgh drafted a very capable backup in the 3rd round selecting hometown hero James Connor, but behind him it isn't pretty having only practice squad level runningback, Fitzgerald Toussaint, on the active roster. There are two ways to look at the James Connor pick, Pittsburgh did need some talent behind Bell as the depth chart is wide open, or was he perhaps drafted to replace Bell who held out from training camp due to a contract dispute resulting from Bell being franchised tagged not to mention Bell is always a risk for a lengthy suspension due to past offenses. Advantage: Bell
You can't go wrong with either of these players as the cornerstone of your dynasty team, I consider Johnson the safer player due to Bell's suspension history, as well as the recent holdout and uncertainty of him playing in Pittsburgh long term. From what's being reported Bell is apparently looking to get the combined money of both a franchised tagged runningback and wide receiver due to his prominent role in the passing game, which would be in the neighbourhood of 25 million per season. Good luck with that, I consider Bell highly likely to move on after this season. Although it would be nice to see him behind that dominant offensive line for the foreseeable future, I believe he will succeed as a top five dyansty runningback on any NFL team. Despite the higher risk that I outlined I am giving the advantage to Bell, he's reinventing how the runningback position is played and does it with a unique style and grace, he's an absolute pleasure to watch. Winner: Le'Veon Bell