FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – At last, there is someone other than you who cares about your fantasy football team.
His name is Le’Veon Bell, he plays running back for the Jets, and he had a suggestion after practice on Thursday in advance of your draft: Take him first overall.
On the surface, it seems like a sensible strategy, what with Bell’s history of production for the Steelers and the Jets’ promising array of weapons. But it’s complicated.
You see, last summer, many fantasy owners drafted Bell very early, and that turned out very badly when he held out for the entire season. Final fantasy score: 0.0.
Bell is well aware of that, and on Monday he took to Twitter for what he called a “loooong overdue!!” apology to fantasy owners who selected him in 2018 and promised this season would be “wayyyy different.”
On Thursday, he was asked what prompted the tweet, and he expanded on his thinking.
“I realized I never apologized for it,” he said. “I don’t regret, obviously, sitting out last year. The only thing is I wish I could have told fantasy owners some type of way, ‘I’m not playing this year,’ so they wouldn’t have picked me.
“A lot of people felt like they wasted their money. That’s what I apologized for. So, I’m sorry again.”
That was when he was asked where he should be drafted this time.
“First,” he said.
Bell was having some fun with the subject. He understands that while fantasy leagues drive interest, his job is to help the Jets win games, not compile statistical points.
Hence, this addendum: “As long as this offense does what this offense can do, I feel like anybody can be a No. 1 fantasy guy, because we have so much talent.”
Perhaps, but on paper no one can match Bell, who made three Pro Bowls and thrice rushed for more than 1,200 yards in the four most recent seasons in which he played.
That is why no one other than quarterback Sam Darnold has been a subject of as much interest and attention from fans and journalists in camp.
So far, so good, as illustrated by one play in particular Thursday, in which the offense was backed up near its own end zone and Bell sliced through the line and past defenders for what in a game might have been a 99-yard run.
“That’s a good play,” coach Adam Gase said later.
The early part of Bell’s season will be an experiment in the effects of taking an entire year off, pro and/or con.
One week in, he said he feels “a million times better” than he did when camp began, both mentally and physically.
About the former, he said, “Obviously, in the beginning of things a lot of words kind of run together and you get a little confused, but now I feel a lot more comfortable.”
About the latter, he said last week he found himself cramping up a bit because he was not used to long practices and multiple reps.
“You can’t really train for football shape,” he said. “You can get in shape and run and everything, but once you put the pads on, you’ve got the extra 30 pounds on you and it feels different.”
By Thursday he said he was feeling so good that for the first time he sought out tackles, or at least reasonable facsimiles of tackles.
“I was running a little more game-like today,” he said. “If they take me to the ground, I’m fine with it. I want to get some popping going. I’m eager for it.”