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Despite suspension, ESPN tabs Steelers RB Le'Veon Bell as No.1 fantasy football pick

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Le'Veon Bell won't play in the first three weeks of the upcoming NFL season. That didn't stop ESPN's Eric Karabell from tabbing Bell as the player he'd select No.1 overall in this year's fantasy football season.

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There's apparently nothing that can stop Le'Veon Bell.

Last year's hyper-extended knee injury and a three-game suspension shouldn't prevent Bell from continuing his ascension atop the ranks of the league's best running backs and, according to ESPN's Eric Karabell, from being the No.1 player picked in fantasy football drafts this summer.

Karabell said as much in his recent article on ESPN.com, stating that Bell is worth taking No.1 overall despite not being active for the season's first three contests.

"I think Le'Veon Bell is the best player in fantasy, and I don't think it's going to be a challenge to overcome his September absence, and still qualify for meaningful late-December games," Karabell wrote. "Bell is just better (that the other elite running backs), and it's not as though we're leaving an open, active roster spot for the games he misses. You can and will be able to replace him."

Karabell seems confident that Bell will be able to ring up stats close to the 1,361 yards rushing, 854 yards receiving and 11 touchdown total Bell tallied in 2014, his second year in the NFL. Karabell pointed to the fact that Bell's stats from last season were so much better than the rest of the field that, even with his three missed games, there's a good chance he could still finish atop the league in fantasy points by a running back. He specifically mentioned that Bell finished a whopping 118 points ahead of the Chiefs Jamaal Charles, who racked up 14 touchdowns while gaining 1,324 total yards in '14.

If you do draft Bell and are looking for someone to sub for him in those early games, Karabell said that fellow Steelers running back DeAngelo Williams wouldn't be a bad choice. But Karabell also said that he doesn't expect Williams be much of a factor in the offense once Bell returns in Week 4 against the Ravens.

While I would agree with Karabell that drafting Bell No.1 overall wouldn't be a bad decision, especially if you're set on drafting a running back with your first overall pick, I think it's a stretch to expect Bell to rack up that many receiving yards. With the upgrades the Steelers have made at receiver, the Steelers simply won't need Bell to do as much in terms of receiving goes. And I also think that Williams will continue to handle a steady diet of work after Bell returns from his suspension.

It's no secret the Steelers are thinking long-term with Bell, which is why Williams was brought in in the first place. But with that being said, I do see Bell eclipsing his rushing total from last year. With an offensive line a year older and wiser, three weeks of additional rest and without the burden of catching 80-plus passes, I don't think 1,400 in 13 games is out of reach for No.26, making him a solid No.1 pick in his year's fantasy drafts.