Le'Veon Bell's fantasy owners are officially in panic mode.
According to ESPN.com's Jeremy Fowler, Bell is expected to miss the Pittsburgh Steelers season opener against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, and his holdout could extend well beyond that after his agent hinted that the two-time All-Pro may make decisions in the best interest of his long-term health.
"Le'Veon has several years left in football; we know his days in Pittsburgh are precarious at best. We also know how he's been utilized in the past by the Steelers organization," agent Adisa Bakari told ESPN's NFL Live, per Fowler.
With uncertainty hanging over Bell's standing in Pittsburgh, here's a look at some appealing waiver-wire additions for owners who have been forced to scrounge the bargain bin for stopgap solutions:
- James Conner, Pittsburgh Steelers, 49.0% ownership
- Aaron Jones, Green Bay Packers, 63.0% ownership (suspended Weeks 1 and 2)
- Bilal Powell, New York Jets, 58.0% ownership
- Latavius Murray, Minnesota Vikings, 55.0% ownership
- James White, New England Patriots, 48.0% ownership
- C.J. Anderson, Carolina Panthers, 53.0% percent ownership
- Jordan Wilkins, Indianapolis Colts, 32.0% ownership
- Corey Clement, Philadelphia Eagles, 28.0% ownership
- LeGarrette Blount, Detroit Lions, 40.0% ownership
- Devontae Booker, Denver Broncos, 20.0% ownership
The conversation has to begin with James Conner. Bell's backup last season, Conner drew rave reviews throughout the preseason and has gained the trust of his teammates and head coach Mike Tomlin.
"[He's gone from] being a rookie that missed a lot of time due to soft tissue injuries and lack of general readiness, to a guy that's done the things that we've outlined several minutes in here," Tomlin said Tuesday, per Fowler.
All told, Conner finished the preseason with 19 carries for 100 yards and one touchdown along with seven receptions for 61 yards—and that kind of efficiency should bolster his standing with fantasy owners.
Plus, there's precedent for Steelers stand-ins to thrive in Bell's absence. Just look at 2016 when DeAngelo Williams opened the season with 26 carries for 143 yards and two touchdowns against Washington. Williams followed up by logging 132 scrimmage yards and a score the following week versus Cincinnati.
If Conner has already been scooped up, Indianapolis' Jordan Wilkins is a worthy flier. The rookie has been elevated to starter with Marlon Mack battling a hamstring injury, and his only real competition for carries will be fellow rookie speedster Nyheim Hines.
As Yahoo Sports' Andy Behrens wrote, Wilkins is "the best bet to lead this team's backfield in touches on Sunday, and he's available in 70 percent of Yahoo leagues. Wilkins averaged a whopping 6.5 YPC at Ole Miss last season, producing impressive stat-lines against the toughest SEC defenses on his schedule (including 101 yards at Alabama)."
Desperate owners could also look to New York Jets committee member Bilal Powell as a possible plug-and-play option on Monday Night Football against the Detroit Lions.
Good for at least 900 yards from scrimmage each of the past two seasons, Powell figures to serve as a change-of-pace complement alongside free-agent signee Isaiah Crowell against a Lions front that allowed 112.5 rushing yards per game last season.
Powell is admittedly something of a boom-or-bust option in standard formats, but PPR owners can turn to him as a flex play whose floor will be buoyed by steady action in the passing game.
All ownership numbers courtesy of Yahoo Sports.