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Spotlight: LeSean McCoy

posted by Mark Wimer on Jul 31st


Mark Wimer's thoughts

LeSean McCoy took over the reins as the Eagles' featured running back last season while Brian Westbrook moved on to San Francisco, and McCoy wowed in his first shot at being the lead back with a very impressive 5.2 yards-per-carry average. All told, McCoy put up 207 rushes for 1,080 yards and 7 TDs rushing and handled 90 targets for 78/592/2 receiving, landing as the third-best fantasy RB in the PPR scoring paradigm and eighth-best in the non-PPR scoring paradigm. He improved in every category over his 945-combined-yards effort as a rookie, and McCoy looks like one of the premier young running backs in the NFL - turning 23 years old this year.

Furthermore, there is no one on the depth chart that threatens to take time away from McCoy - Eldra Buckley and Dion Lewis are currently next on the depth chart while the Eagles make up their mind about whether to re-sign Jerome Harrison (71/330/1 rushing and 12/85/0 receiving last year after coming over from the Browns in week five during 2010). Even if Harrison is re-signed, it will be to provide veteran depth at the position rather than as a challenge to McCoy. McCoy is firmly entrenched as the starter.

However, one risk to keep in mind is that the Eagles top two quarterbacks are dangerous runners in their own right. Michael Vick notched 676 and 9 touchdowns last year in just 12 games and has 4,641 yards and 32 TDs in his career. Meanwhile newly acquired backup Vince Young has 1,380 yards and 12 TDs in limited time as a starter. From the Eagles' perspective this drag on McCoy's TD production is not a concern, but for fantasy owners (especially in non-PPR leagues), it is a factor which has to be a significant part of the equation regarding when McCoy should be drafted. The Eagles were fifth in the NFL in net rushing yards last season, with 2,324 yards compiled, and they were fourth in the NFL in rushing TDs last year, with 18 - but Vick accounted for half of those scores. There is definitely a ceiling on the number of scoring plays that McCoy will enjoy as long as Vick or Young are calling the shots.

Even though the lack of goal line carries is a worry, let's remember that McCoy makes up for it - particularly in PPR leagues - with his prowess as a receiver. As we mentioned, McCoy caught 78 receptions last season, which led all NFL RBs by a significant margin:

Rank First Last Recs Yards YPR RecTDs
1 LeSean McCoy 78 582 7.5 30
2 Arian Foster 66 604 9.2 34
3 Ray Rice 63 556 8.8 23
4 Peyton Hillis 61 481 7.9 25
5 Darren Sproles 59 520 8.8 25
6 Jahvid Best 58 487 8.4 16
7 LaDainian Tomlinson 52 368 7.1 19
8 Matt Forte 50 537 10.7 22
9 Steven Jackson 47 383 8.1 14
10 Felix Jones 47 436 9.3 15

Although Andy Reid's RBs will never push for a rushing title, someone of McCoy's talent can push for the league leaders in total yards from scrimmage, because he's sure to be among the most targeted receivers out of the backfield.

Positives

  • McCoy is a veteran running back now, with a proven track record of production despite his young age
  • McCoy is the unchallenged, featured running back on the roster
  • McCoy has more room to grow as a runner - his potential has not yet been reached, and there is relatively little wear-and-tear on his body to date

Negatives

  • Michael Vick's presence on the roster likely caps McCoy's rush TD potential in the single digits
  • McCoy may face more pressure from opposing defenses if DeSean Jackson's holdout is prolonged
  • The Eagles face the New York Jets during week 15 this year, and Dallas in week 16 (at Dallas), setting up a very tough schedule for McCoy during fantasy playoffs

Final thoughts

McCoy is a top 10 fantasy back in just about everyone's rankings, although some - like myself - aren't quite as high as others. The concern is whether Vick's mobility will keep McCoy from scoring a lot of touchdowns, which is needed - particularly in non-PPR leagues - to justify a top 5 consideration. Either way, McCoy is a valuable tool and someone that should be a first round pick in most leagues. If you can grab him toward the later part of the first round, you're well positioned.


Quotations from the message board thread

To view the entire Player Spotlight thread (there's a ton of fantastic commentary in there), click here.

Jason Wood, Footballguys Senior Writer said:

A lot of people gave up on McCoy as an elite prospect after his rookie season, and then he went ahead and turned in a sophomore effort that seemed the perfect fit for what Andy Reid and his coaches want out of their starting back. He caught everything thrown to him, showed more patience behind his blockers, and ran hard. We know the Eagles top RB is never going to have 20-carry-per-game upside, but when he's catching 70-80 receptions, that goes a long way to make you forget about that, particularly in PPR leagues.

pecorino said:

I am a McCoy owner who was thrilled and somewhat surprised, with his performance last year (over 1600 total yards and 9 TDs). In PPR leagues, he must have dominated. I figured incorrectly that he'd be caught in a RBBC. I actually think his numbers will go down a bit last year, just natural regression after an aberrant season. he may get about the same carries (~200) but probably less receptions (i'll say about 60). still a solid RB2.

Iwannabeacowboybaby! said:

LeSean McCoy is one of the rare backs in the NFL that can run bewteen the 20's, catch the ball, and is a goaline back. Those qualities make McCoy a high commodity heading into the 2011-12 season. With the addition of Vick for the full season, I would upgrade McCoy slightly compared to last year due to defenses having to keep an eye on Vick at all times, loosening up the defenses for slippery draws and tricky screens.

I was very impressed with McCoy's season last year and I expect him to build off of that. He compliments what Mike Vick and D. Jackson brings to the table offensively and makes this Eagle offense very explosive. I will not hesitate to pull the trigger on drafting McCoy this year if I'm in the correct draft slot to do so.


LeSean McCoy projections

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