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Player Spotlight: LeSean McCoy

A detailed look at LeSean McCoy’s fantasy prospects for 2016.


As A Player

LeSean McCoy returns for his second year as the lead back for the Buffalo Bills. He’s coming off of an injury-marred 2015 campaign that limited him to 12 games, but he was still a focal point of the offense when he was able to suit up. There were some off-the-field concerns this offseason that appear to be behind him, and there will be no disciplinary action as a result of the drama. There were also some concerns that he could see his role reduced courtesy of additional touches being distributed to either Karlos Williams or Jonathan Williams.  Those concerns appear to be put to rest as well, as both players had their own offseason incidents that have impacted their standing on the depth chart. All signs point to a productive 2016 with a heavy workload for McCoy. Let’s take a look at his production over the past few seasons, and what we can glean from that for 2016,  

Recent History

YEAR

 

G

RSH

YD

TD

TARG

REC

YD

TD

FumL

2013

PHI

16

314

1607

9

64

52

539

2

1

2014

PHI

16

315

1319

5

38

29

155

0

3

2015

BUF

12

203

895

3

50

32

292

2

2

The first thing we can note is that McCoy was a clear workhorse back in 2013 with the Eagles. He still played a huge role in 2014, but the team’s reliance on him in the passing game declined precipitously. That coincides with the evolution of the Chip Kelly offense during his tenure at the helm for the Eagles, and the subsequent trade of McCoy that offseason. For his first season with the Bills, McCoy was hampered by hamstring issues for a good portion of the season. He missed four games in total and was limited in a few others, but he still managed to deliver at least 100 combined yards in eight of his appearances.

Based on his production over 12 games in 2015, he would’ve been knocking on the door of 1,200 yards rushing and 400 yards receiving if he had been able to go all 16 weeks. Another trip or two to the end zone would likely have been in the cards as well, and what looks like a solid 2015 season would have the narrative of being an extremely productive one. He’s in line to do the same in 2016, and a fully healthy McCoy deserves consideration as a RB1 for most fantasy squads.      

Looking Ahead To 2016

As a dual-threat running back - and one that is clearly atop the Bills depth chart - McCoy’s role in the offense is fully secure heading into 2016. For the 2015 season, the Bills threw the ball 465 times versus keeping it on the ground 509 times. There’s nothing to suggest the gap in that ratio will close in 2016. In fact, the disparity may grow even further in favor of the running game. There are rumblings that Rex Ryan is facing a playoffs or bust mandate for the upcoming season. That could lead the team’s philosophy to lean even further towards his preferred ground-and-pound ways, as he tries to beat opponents into submission in his quest for a playoff berth.

The Bills do have some talent in the passing game, and Tyrod Taylor could be even more productive through the air with additional opportunities. He’s not shy about tucking it away and taking off either, and he finished 2015 as the team’s second leading rusher. Sammy Watkins took a giant leap forward in 2015, but he’s also in the midst of recovering from offseason foot surgery. It’s unclear how effective he’ll be in the early going, which could cause the offense to lean heavily on McCoy for the first few weeks. Behind Watkins, Charles Clay has developed some decent chemistry with Taylor, and he could be in line for some more targets this season. Outside of Watkins and Clay, there are plenty of question marks and serviceable options, but nothing to write home about.

The regular season schedule shapes up to pretty challenging for Buffalo. The AFC East generally comes down to who can finish in second place behind the Patriots, but you can make a case for any one of the other three teams in the division being able to push for second place and battle for a Wild Card berth. The Bills will face off with all four teams from the NFC West this season, and that presents several daunting defensive matchups. The remainder of the schedule includes games against each member of the AFC North, as well as Jacksonville and Oakland. Add it all up, and the Bills will face a tough road to challenge for a playoff spot. This could actually work in McCoy’s favor, as the Bills could very well be content to play ball control in the majority of this season’s matchups.   

Positives

  • Role in offense. McCoy is firmly on top of the depth chart. Mike Gillislee is in the driver’s seat for the Bills RB2 job, but he’ll likely be relegated to a change-of-pace role and provide spells from time to time if McCoy remains fully healthy.

  • Pass-catching ability. Despite missing four games in 2015, only five Bills were targeted more times last season. For a full 16 games, there’s a pretty good chance he’ll be in the running for third-most targeted Bill behind Watkins and Clay.

  • Bills offensive philosophy. Rex Ryan’s offensive philosophy is slightly more advanced than three yards and a cloud of dust - but not by much. He’s fully content to lean heavily on the ground-and-pound style with a few deep strikes sprinkled in.   

Negatives

  • Health. The Bills have already revealed that they’ll be limiting McCoy’s reps in the preseason. He’s dealing with a minor ankle issue, and the team is taking the right approach in erring on the side of caution to insure he’s not nicked up for Week 1. That being said, previous owners that had to shuffle their lineups on four occasions last season will not be comforted by this news.

  • Schedule. There are no ‘gimme’ games on the NFL schedule, but the Bills appear to have a particularly tough road ahead in 2016. As outlined above, that could play in McCoy’s favor in terms of workload - but it could also lead to several games where the Bills offense appears to have missed the starting gun.

  • Nose for end zone. Since finding pay dirt 11 times in 2013, McCoy has crossed the goal line only five times in each of the previous two seasons. He should be able to increase that total over a full 16 games in 2016, but it’s something to be mindful of, and potentially even a tiebreaker when comparing McCoy to other backs within his draft range.

Projections


 Name

G

RSH

YD

TD

REC

YD

TD

FumL

PROJ-Dodds

15

245

1041

7

41

283

2

1

PROJ-Henry

15

230

1015

6

38

310

2

2

PROJ-Wood

16

260

1100

6

37

295

2

1

PROJ-Tremblay

16

220

948

5

29

243

1

3

The book on McCoy calls for a bit over 1,000 yards on the ground, about 36 receptions for 283 yards, and roughly eight trips to the end zone. That sounds like production that is worth signing up for, and he could very well finish the season as a Top 10 RB.

Final Thoughts

Assuming full health, McCoy appears to be in line for a productive 2016 campaign. His role in the offense is well-defined, and he put forth some solid production in 2015 despite missing four games. The Bills could lean even more heavily on McCoy in his second season with the club, and he’ll see more than his fair share of targets in the passing game. Add it all up, and McCoy deserves consideration for your RB1 spot in this year’s drafts.

Other Viewpoints

Jason Wood in his player comments on Footballguys.com:

“He’s going to get a ton of work, and deserves to be ranked no worse than a mid-tier RB2.”

CBS Sports 2016 Outlook on LeSean McCoy

“Still, the Bills will remain a run-first offense, and McCoy is the focal point of their game plan most weeks. He should be considered a high-end No. 1 Fantasy running back worth drafting in Round 2 or 3 in the majority of leagues.”

Numberfire’s Nicholas Niel on McCoy’s Value For 2016

“The days of McCoy being a top tier fantasy running back might be over, but he still has strong value in the mid- to late-second round as a high-floor option.”