Win. Your. League.

Receive 3 Free Downloads More Details

Player Spotlight: LeSean McCoy

A detailed look at LeSean McCoy's fantasy prospects for 2013

The Eagles collectively want a Mulligan for last season. Few teams in recent memory fell as short of preseason expectations as the Eagles. Thanks to back-to-back aggressive free agent binges, the Eagles were perceived as a 'Dream Team' and ready to contend for a Super Bowl. But we all know that's not how things turned out. Instead, the Eagles finished 4-12 and ranked near the league bottom in points scored (29th) and points allowed (29th). Andy Reid's 14-year tenure ended as a result, and owner Jeffrey Lurie turned the franchise over to Chip Kelly -- the collegiate superstar who lit up Pac-12 scoreboards at the University of Oregon.

LeSean McCoy was coming off an MVP-caliber season in 2011 (1,624 yards and 20 touchdowns) and fantasy owners targeted McCoy in the top 5 consistently. He -- like so many of his teammates -- couldn't escape the gravitational pull of the Eagles derailment. McCoy fell well short of expectations:

  • 12 games played (vs. 15 in 2011) -- Missing time with a dreaded concussion
  • 200 attempts (vs. 270)
  • 840 rushing yards (vs. 1,309)
  • 4.2 yards per rush (vs. 4.8)
  • 2 rushing touchdowns (vs. 17)
  • 4 fumbles (vs. 1)
  • RB21 ranking (vs. RB2)
Change is Good? In this case, we say YES

Chip Kelly's hire was among the most interesting of a busy NFL offseason. To summarize Kelly's approach in one word would be INNOVATIVE. The uniqueness of his approach isn't limited to the playbook, it extends to everything from the way the team practices, to how they eat, to the way they're motivated, to the pace and timing of team meetings. There are dozens of articles about Kelly's philosophy, but perhaps none more poignant than when Greg Bedard of the Boston Globe credited the Patriots record-setting offense to Bill Belichick and Bill O'Brien learned from Chip Kelly.
 

Kelly told the Patriots he was moving to a no-huddle that only used one word to signify everything involved in a play.

Sideline calls take too long. Wristbands too.

One word is all that is needed.

“The things they’re doing now, they’re even faster,” [Ed] Dickson said. “They have things where they can call one thing and it’s going to tell them formation, plays, everything, and all you have to see is coverage.”

The collective Patriots’ response to Kelly’s assertion was, basically, “You run an entire offense like that? How do you get the players to comprehend that?”

Kelly declined to be interviewed, but those with knowledge of the discussion said Kelly laid out his rationale.

Players memorize thousands of words in songs, hundreds of movie lines, and many other things involving pop culture.

Why can’t players have instant recall of a handful of concepts? Heck, everybody knows No. 2 on a McDonald’s menu gets you a Quarter Pounder, medium fries, and a drink.

“It’s kind of easy,” Dickson said. “It comes with repetition. A lot of guys learn different. Myself, I just needed to be out there repping those plays. The more comfortable you get, the faster you’ll go. He wants to make it easier to where you’re not thinking about anything, you’re just going fast. Make it as simple as guys can learn it so you can go really fast. That’s the key, making it simple for your players so they can play at top speed.”

Kelly’s overall message to the Patriots: Don’t put a limit on your players’ minds; they will learn whatever you teach them.

“I was interested to hear how he did it,” Belichick said. “I would say he expanded it to a different level and it was very interesting to understand what he was doing. Certainly I’ve learned a lot from talking to Chip about his experiences with it and how he does it and his procedure and all that.”

Pace and a Commitment to the Run
Not only will the Eagles look to lead the league in snaps per game, they will also try to run the ball extensively. Pop quiz...how many times did the University of Oregon run the ball in 2012? If you answered, "685 times", you get the prize. There seems to be a misconception that Chip Kelly's offense is a spread passing attack, but he's a run first, run second coach. The Ducks ran the ball almost twice as often as they threw it under his watch, and that's great news for LeSean McCoy.
 
The Eagles Defense a Major X-Factor
The Eagles defense was woeful last year, and I'm much less confidence in a quick rebound on that side of the ball. One, the team is transitioning from a 4-3 front to a 3-4 look, and historically such transitions are rarely smooth. Two, Kelly's choice of defense coordinator -- Billy Davis -- has a resume that leaves much to be desired. In two seasons as the 49ers defensive coordinator, the defense ranked 32nd and 26th. A few years later Davis got another DC position in Arizona, and fared no better -- finishing 20th and 29th in two seasons. Why am I talking about the Eagles defense? Because if Birds can't stop opposing teams, it's going to be very difficult for Chip Kelly to execute his run heavy attack. 

McCoy's Receiving Skills = Saving Grace
Let's say my instincts are correct and the Eagles defense struggles, which makes it impossible for the Eagles to run the ball as much as Kelly wants, what would that mean for LeSean McCoy's fantasy prospects?  Luckily, McCoy is an EXCELLENT receiver, and so he can (and will) flourish even if the Eagles are throwing a ton to try to play catch up.
 
Running Back Receiving Stats (2010-2012)
 
RankPlayerRecsRecYdsYPRRecTD
1 Darren Sproles 220 1,897 8.62 16
2 Ray Rice 200 1,738 8.69 5
3 LeSean McCoy 180 1,280 7.11 8
4 Arian Foster 159 1,438 9.04 6
5 Matt Forte 147 1,377 9.37 5
6 Chris Johnson 137 895 6.53 1
7 Steven Jackson 126 1,037 8.23 1
8 Pierre Thomas 118 980 8.31 2
9 Reggie Bush 112 796 7.11 4
10 Ryan Mathews 111 852 7.68 0

Since becoming a starter in 2010, McCoy ranks 3rd among RBs with 180 receptions and 2nd with 8 touchdowns. If the Eagles are playing catch up, McCoy is going to be one of the top targets for whoever plays quarterback (Michael Vick, Nick Foles and Matt Barkley all have eyes on the job). When you consider the Eagles lost Jeremy Maclin at the start of camp, McCoy could conceivably end up 2nd on the team (behind DeSean Jackson) in targets.

Offensive Line Improvements
The Eagles struggled last year for MANY reasons, but the injuries to the offensive line were right at the top of the list.  LT Jason Peters -- arguably the best in the league -- missed the entire season but is back and looks dominant thus far in the preseason. C Jason Kelce missed 14 games last year, but is back. Long-time starter Todd Herremans missed 8 games, but is back. And last but not least, the Eagles used the 4th overall pick on tackle Lane Johnson, who will start on the right side this year but eventually profiles as Jason Peters' replacement at left tackle. If the Eagles have a bit of luck this year, the team will have significantly improved play at four of the five line positions; meanwhile the lone 16-game starter last year Evan Mathis is one of the league's best interior lineman. 
 

POSITIVES

  • McCoy has produced at a top-tier level since becoming a full-time starter three years ago, and remains the Eagles best skill position player
  • Chip Kelly's offense is both fast paced (lots of snaps) and run-heavy (lots of touches for the RBs)
  • Jason Peters, the league's best left tackle, is 100% healthy after missing last season

NEGATIVES

  • The NFL is taking a much harder stance on concussions, and McCoy missed four games last year due to a severe concussion. If he suffers another concussion, fantasy owners may need to be prepared for an extended absence
  • Change always raise the risk profile. While we expect Chip Kelly's system to be RB-friendly, history has been unkind to college coaches making the NFL transition
  • The loss of WR Jeremy Maclin and lack of clarity on the starting quarterback situation may make it easy for opposing defenses to key on the running game

FINAL THOUGHTS

In an era where we lament the lack of workhorse running backs, this year is shaping up to offer compelling starters throughout the 1st round. Beauty will be in the eye of the beholder, and McCoy could be the 3rd RB off the board or the 10th -- it will depend on personal preference, lineup requirements and league scoring nuances. No matter your league format, McCoy should be on your short list as the anchor to your fantasy squad. I'm not going to argue McCoy will outproduce the likes of Adrian Peterson, C.J. Spiller, Doug Martin or Jamaal Charles, but there's no reason he won't finish in the same vicinity as long as he stays healthy.

The Chip Kelly era is both exciting and unsettling since we are basing our optimism on instinct versus empirical evidence. Yet, we know that Kelly is committed to an uptempo scheme that emphasizes the running game. McCoy should be the centerpiece of an offense that -- if things go according to plan -- leads the leagues in snaps per game. And if things don't go to script, McCoy will make up for lost carries by being one of the team's top receiving options. Draft with confidence. 

PROJECTIONS

Name RushRuYdsRuTDRecsRecYdRecTDFPTs
David Dodds 250 1,100 8 58 435 2 214
Bob Henry 250 1,100 8 68 480 3 224
Jason Wood 260 1,200 10 48 400 1 226
Maurile Tremblay 248 1,112 5 63 466 2 200

THOUGHTS FROM AROUND THE WEB

Brad Evans and his colleagues at Yahoo! discuss whether LeSean McCoy will be a goal-line asset:

Kelly promises to deploy a relentless ground onslaught featuring unique sets and various rushers within his wacky triple-option based offense. McCoy should be the primary ball-carrier, but Brown and Vick will get plenty of totes. He'll deliver RB1 value, but I'm speculating he maxes out at 10 scores.

Dan Graziano of ESPN reminds fantasy owners not to forget about LeSean McCoy:

This is a guy, McCoy, who was being talked about as a possible first overall pick at this time last year, and who was a consensus top-three pick. And we're downgrading him now why? Because he had a concussion? Because Bryce Brown had a couple of good games while he was out? Because he was on pace to score fewer than the 20 touchdowns he had the year before?

Please. You find reasons not to like LeSean McCoy. I'm happy to take him off your hands. McCoy's birthday is Friday. Which birthday? That's right, his 25th. He's 11 months younger than Spiller and a year and a half younger than Charles. And right up until the part about the fear of splitting carries, everything Matthew Berry says about Spiller in his opening speech in that video can be said about McCoy.


More from Jason Wood:

On Second Thought: Defenses and Kickers - August 28
On Second Thought: Running Backs - August 28
On Second Thought: Tight Ends - August 28
On Second Thought: Quarterbacks - August 28
On Second Thought: Wide Receivers - August 28
What If Roddy White or Julio Jones Are Lost for the Season? - August 19
What If Robert Griffin III Is Lost for the Season? - August 19
What If Cecil Shorts Is Lost for the Season? - August 19
Player Spotlight: Philip Rivers - August 8
Player Spotlight: Jordan Cameron - August 7