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Breaking News: Mike Bell Named Denver Starter
Derek Aiken
August 8, 2006

Bring on the Terrell Davis comparisons! In case you missed it, the Denver Broncos recently named Mike Bell, the undrafted rookie, their #1 running back. Before you get crazy and spend a high draft pick on the guy, let’s think about the situation.

First of all, its early August and he has yet to take a snap in even a preseason game. While he has looked extremely impressive in camp, don’t immediately mistake him for the next Terrell Davis. Every summer, each team has a training camp hero, whose camp success belies his true fantasy value (does anyone remember Gizmo Williams?) Bell will get the start in the first preseason game against Detroit. Let’s just see where things go from there.

Another thing to remember is that Ron Dayne, Tatum Bell and Cedric Cobbs are still in camp. At some point this summer, there has been an article written about how impressive each one is and how they are ready to take the starting job. Any of these four, particularly Dayne or Tatum Bell, still have to be considered a more likely starting running back than Mike Bell.

And then there is the Mike Shanahan factor. The coach’s lack of honesty and forthcoming is rivaled only by Bill Belichick. Don’t dismiss this scenario: Shanahan wasn’t overly impressed with the play of Dayne or Tatum Bell, and decided to try to light a fire under them by promoting an undrafted rookie ahead of them. Shanahan has a great deal of uncertainty at the position, and is most likely eager to create the best competition possible.

Even if Mike Bell were to win the starting job, don’t believe for a second that he would be given the 20-plus carries per game needed to be an impact fantasy back. To prove this point, you need only look at last season. Mike Anderson had very good stats, but they were inconsistent. Some weeks he blew-up and other weeks he was well below average. Whomever wins the starting job won’t be likely to have a full workload and will lose carries to the other 2-3 backs.

Now on to the positive. All of what was written above was meant to temper your enthusiasm, so you didn’t spend to early of a pick on this guy. Especially in deeper leagues, Bell has immediate value. If you’ve already drafted, stop reading this article and pick him up now. If Mike Bell does open the season as the starter, he would have to be projected somewhere in the 15-20 range for running backs. History has taught us that just about any RB can gain 1,000 yards behind Denver’s O-Line, so the starter still has very good value.

So, how can a running back, just named the starter, be listed as a long-shot? Because he still is. The fantasy jury is still way-out on this guy. If you can get him later in your draft, scoop him up, but don’t take him when lower-risk players are still on the board.

A couple of free pieces of fantasy advice, as it pertains to this situation. First, any time there is a Running Back By Committee in place, it devalues everyone of them. Don’t be the owner that has to waste four roster spots on Denver backs, just because you drafted one of them. Handcuffing yourself with one extra back is bad enough, let alone 2-3. Secondly, somebody like Mike Bell has to be classified under the hype factor. Your fellow owners get excited about a player like Bell, in a system like Denver’s, and will take him earlier than they should. Spend your pick on a safer back, who’s less likely to share carries, like a Reuben Droughns.