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Spotlight: LeSean McCoy

posted by Jeff Pasquino on Jul 15th


Jeff Pasquino's thoughts

LeSean McCoy is most definitely one of the top three running backs in all fantasy formats for 2012. Along with Arian Foster and Ray Rice, few other running backs in the NFL right now have the stranglehold on a team's workload like these three top players. What makes McCoy significant here is that he is proficient as both a runner and a receiver as far as offensive production, but it is also very meaningful that he never seems to come off of the field. McCoy was simply dominant as a rusher, racking up over 270 rushes last season while no other Philadelphia running back topped 50.

McCoy is also a big part of the Eagles' passing game. Philadelphia views the short pass and screen routes as a natural extension of their running attack, which is music to the ears of most PPR league fantasy owners who are lucky enough to secure McCoy's services. McCoy is strong at pass protection and is rarely removed in substitution packages. Look no further than the thin depth chart behind McCoy for the Eagles - a suspect Dion Lewis is hardly considered a threat to steal touches. Two rookies (Chris Polk, Byron Brown) have some hope of seeing a few touches throughout the year, but there is little question that this is McCoy's backfield.

Detractors will look at Philadelphia's quarterback situation, where Michael Vick is seen as one of the best rushing signal callers in the league. The numbers from last season tend to be more on McCoy's side, however, as he scored 20 times (17 rushes, three receptions) while Vick had just one rushing touchdown all season. The Eagles and Vick both know that they need to keep Vick healthy to succeed and push into the playoffs, and that means minimizing Vick's touches on designed running plays. Vick will still scramble here and there on broken plays, but for the most part McCoy will get the lion's share of touchdown opportunities.

Another possible downside - and a valid concern, without question - is whether or not McCoy can maintain the high level of production that he achieved last season. McCoy led the NFL in touchdowns with 20, a number that would be hard to achieve for any non-quarterback. Let's go ahead and explore this, and consider how McCoy would stack up if he were to only have half as many touchdowns last year (10) instead of 20. Here's how he would rank in both PPR and non-PPR:

RANK FIRST LAST TM RSH YD TD REC YD TD FPT VBD FPTs PPRRank
1 Ray Rice BAL 291 1364 12 76 704 3 302 153 378 1
2 LeSean McCoy PHI 273 1309 17 48 315 3 282 134 330 2
3 Maurice Jones-Drew JAX 343 1606 8 43 374 3 264 115 307 4
4 Arian Foster HOU 278 1224 10 53 617 2 256 108 309 3
5 LeSean McCoy PHI 273 1309 7 48 315 3 222 134 270 6
6 Marshawn Lynch SEA 285 1204 12 28 212 1 220 71 248 7
7 Michael Turner ATL 301 1340 11 17 168 0 217 68 234 9
8 Ryan Mathews SD 222 1091 6 50 455 0 191 42 241 8
9 Adrian Peterson MIN 209 973 12 18 139 1 189 41 207 12
10 Michael Bush OAK 256 977 7 37 418 1 188 39 225 11
11 Darren Sproles NO 87 603 2 86 710 7 185 37 271 5
12 Steven Jackson STL 260 1145 5 42 333 1 184 35 226 10

As you can see, McCoy with only 10 touchdowns still comes in as RB5 (with himself as RB2) last season in non-PPR, and finishes as RB6 (again, with the original McCoy as RB2) in PPR. So even if you take his touchdowns and cut them in half, you still have a Top 5 fantasy running back - pretty good downside if you ask me.

McCoy has proven to be a strong rusher and capable of more and more workload for the past three seasons. His rushing totals have gone up since his rookie year (155 in 2009, 207 in 2010 and 273 last year) while consistently putting up a strong yards per carry (5.1 in 2010, 4.8 in 2011) as the clear cut starter the past two campaigns. Despite the general belief that the Eagles do not give their top rusher much of a workload, McCoy's ability to do more per touch than the average rusher plus his ample statistics as a receiver out of the backfield more than makes up for his lack of games with 20+ carries.

Positives

  • McCoy is a dominant ball carrier and receiver for a high-powered offense in Philadelphia, who should see the majority of the workload all season long
  • The wide open offense in Philadelphia affords McCoy with ample space and running lanes, more than compensating for lower carry totals by increasing his yards per carry
  • McCoy is an accomplished multi-dimensional player, capable of high production as a runner, receiver and goal line threat
  • The Eagles are in favor of using him as their primary runner and top receiver out of the backfield, which also protects their franchise QB Michael Vick from overexposure to injury as a rusher

Negatives

  • Michael Vick is a threat to run the ball anywhere on the field and at any time, which could lower McCoy's touchdown totals
  • The Eagles do not employ McCoy as a traditional runner with 20+ carries very often at all, and head coach Andy Reid has been known to "forget" about his top running backs in the second halves of a given contest throughout the regular season
  • Philadelphia has a strong passing attack with numerous weapons (DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and Brent Celek) who all could lower McCoy's offensive touches and scoring chances
  • The Eagles did lose their left tackle in the offseason, Jason Peters, which could reduce McCoy's rushing production

Final thoughts

McCoy is a stud fantasy running back in all formats and should go in the first half of all fantasy drafts this year. Concerns about touchdown totals going down are legitimate, but not because Michael Vick will be running wild again at his current age. The Eagles would much rather give the ball to McCoy, a veteran ball handler with more ability to take hits than their franchise quarterback. McCoy still does not take the typical pounding a top fantasy RB1 normally takes as the Eagles limit his rushes but offset that with ample targets in the passing game. McCoy is one of the closest things to a lock in the early part of a fantasy draft as you can find for 2012.


Quotations from the message board thread

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

Eminence said:

The interesting thing about McCoy is that NO ONE wanted this guy at some point. He was the equivalent of Donald Brown before he broke out. I think everything went 100% right for McCoy last year and I view him as a late 1st / early 2nd guy.

If I had the chance to draft him in the Top 5, I would (assuming Rodgers was off the board).

This is the kind of guy I would draft with direct intentions of trading away to an owner who assumes he's going to repeat last year's production. I'd go for a King's Ransom and if I didn't get it, I'd still be sitting on a quailty RB1.

FF Ninja said:

I'd take him over Rice at this point. He did very well in a year in which things all fell the wrong way for the Eagles as a team. Most of us were afraid he'd suffer the Jonathan Stewart fate of having all this goal line TDs vultured by his QB, but Vick went from 9 rushing TDs to 1 last year. Given his proclamation that he'll be playing it safe this year so he can stay healthy for the entire season, I think McCoy owners are safe unless Reid suddenly decides someone else is the goal line back.

I expect the Philly offense to be better this year with a healthy Maclin and a happy DeSean, so it is possible that he scores more TDs than before, but you don't need that to make him a great #2 overall pick. If the offense stays opened up then he'll get plenty of yards making him a safe weekly play and an end of year top 5 RB even if he only gets 10 TDs instead of 20. Due to the anticipated WR health, I think we see a few less rec for McCoy (48 in 15g last year), but he remains a solid threat in that aspect of the game so it wouldn't surprise me if I was wrong there.

Modog184 said:

Right now I got McCoy down for 294/1310/12 rushing and 51/395/3 receiving.

He's certainly a good bet for top5 barring injury, so I won't focus on what's to like about him, but on what may be cause for concern.

1) The TD total last year probably won't be reproduced.
2) They lost Jason Peters, one of the best tackles in the game.
3) The ypc is a concern to me. Last year he averaged 4.8 ypc (right around he career average) but that was with 5.11% of his carries going for 20 or more yards. That's 6th best among players who had at least 100 carries last year, yet he finished 18th in ypc. The reason: 25.55% of his carries went for a loss or no gain, that ranks 4th worst among players with 100 carries.
4) He had 7 games last year where he had 20 or less total touches. And another 2 where he had 21. Compare that to someone like A.Foster where he only had less than 20 CARRIES 6 times.

Of course this is probably nitpicking and can't blame anyone for taking him top 3 overall. I have him right behind Rice and Foster in terms of the first round picks, although right now I have him finishing RB6 in PPR and RB5 in non-PPR, but that'll surely change as we find out more about how workloads will be split this year.


LeSean McCoy projections

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