Spotlight: LeSean McCoy

posted by on Jun 1st


's thoughts

The Philadelphia Eagles selected LeSean McCoy as a complementary back to pair with Brian Westbrook and insurance should Westbrook continue to get hurt or sustain lingering injuries. Westbrook again struggled to stay on the field last year and wasn't the same game changing back when he was, prompting the Eagles brass to release him in the offseason. McCoy stepped in and garnered mixed reviews, as many people felt he was adequate but not usually explosive.

At the very least, McCoy will be afforded first crack in leading the Eagles rushing attack. If he can follow in Westbrook's footsteps, McCoy could evolve into a steady fantasy contributor. Westbrook posted four Top Ten fantasy seasons and another two years as a Top 20 running back. However, not many running backs have been the dual threat that Westbrook was and Eagles fans may have to temper their enthusiasm and lower their expectations.

McCoy will be a challenging player to evaluate and project this season as the Eagles offense could be very different without Westbrook and former franchise quarterback Donovan McNabb. Since McCoy didn't really step in and gobble up carry after carry, it would be hard to suggest he will immediately take over as a bell cow, featured back. He only spent two years in college at the University of Pittsburgh, but he did see the ball extensively while in school. McCoy averaged 26 touches, 136 yards from scrimmage, and 1.58 total TD per game to go along with a 4.8 ypc over his collegiate career.

Depending upon who you ask, McCoy's rookie campaign could be considered a mild success or somewhat of a disappointment. Of the 17 games McCoy appeared in (regular and post-season), he eclipsed 100 yards from scrimmage only twice. On the plus side, in nine games with 10+ touches, McCoy averaged 80 yards from scrimmage and generated four touchdowns. All in all, that was probably as well as could be expected as a fill-in with Westbrook hobbled and hampered. Even seeing a partial workload, he was still able to haul in 40 receptions, becoming just the 16th rookie running back to do so in the past 20 years.

As far as YPC goes, McCoy ranked 21st last year of the 32 running backs with at least 150 carries (4.11 ypc). That also ranked him 33rd (out of 73) for rookie running backs with at least 150 carries in their first season (since 1990).

With the Eagles season on the line down the stretch and in the playoffs, McCoy only saw the ball 28 times (rushes and receptions combined) in the team's final four games against SF, DEN, and two games against DAL. That almost seems to be a backwards progression for rookies, as in many instances they usually don't play much or see many carries early on and built trust and a workload as the season progresses.

Another potential issue will be that the Eagles had the fewest rushing attempts by their running backs in 2009 of any team in the NFL. Their total number of running back rushing attempts (301 attempts) was nearly 10% less than the second lowest team (the Bears with 327 RB rushing attempts). In two starts with new starting quarterback Kevin Kolb in 2009, the Eagles put the ball in the air 85 times vs. 39 RB rushing attempts. Oddly enough, that average of 19.5 RB rushing attempts was slightly higher than the 18.8 running back carries the team averaged over the entire season. In the Andy Reid era, the Eagles have ranked 20th or worse in team rushing attempts 8 times.

Positives

  • Appears to be the heir apparent and first in line to take over for one of the more dynamic running backs in the past several years.
  • RB Mike Bell and FB Leonard Weaver are McCoy's competition for touches, and neither would really appear to be a serious threat to fully takeover the starting position.
  • McCoy did well when given the opportunity in relief of Westbrook and even with a smaller workload produced solid fantasy numbers.

Negatives

  • Even doing well for a number of weeks mid-season, McCoy saw his workload drop off as the season went on last year.
  • The Eagles have traditionally been a pass first team under head coach Andy Reid and a phase shift in offensive philosophy does not seem to be on the horizon.
  • The backfield situation in Philadelphia shows telltale signs of a RBBC, and McCoy may have to make do with a decent chunk of the workload but not a huge piece of the pie.

Final thoughts

McCoy still has a lot to learn and will be asked to do more this season than last year in terms of number of plays on the field. That may translate into more snaps but not a lot more touches. The Eagles should still be a pass happy team that runs the ball to keep defenses honest, but it's very unlikely that they rapidly morph into a run-centric team.

Assuming that the Eagles running backs will have 330 rushing attempts and McCoy will see 60% of them, that works out to about 200 carries. With a few more receptions added in, he should be a decent fantasy RB2 option this year but probably a lot of touches short of the heavy hitters at running back.


Quotations from the message board thread

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

eraclansing said:

Andy Reid has shown that when his main back is healthy he will get in b/t 225-290 rushing attempts for the season. Westbrook rarely stayed healthy more than 12 games per year but when he did he always put up monster stats both rushing and receiving. McCoy has shown to be more durable thus far in his career, playing in all 16 games last year, so my prediction for him is based on participation throughout the season as the #1 back. With Kolb at the helm, the Eagles are going to rely more on the short passing game, so I see McCoy battling Ray Rice for league leader in receptions.

Bird said:

The heir-apparent to Westbrook didn't seem to light it up last year when he had his opportunity. In fact, Weaver seemed to get a good amount of touches while Westbrook was out. This season Philadelphia brings in Bell to steal touches. I don't think Reid is ready to lean on McCoy like he did with Westbrook. From some of these earlier projections, it looks like he'll be gone long before I would be willing to draft him.

Jedimaster21 said:

Wow. These are some very conservative predictions. Everyone does know he is the unquestioned starter and Westbrook is gone, right?

Players take the biggest jump from their first to second season, and despite being a very young rookie, McCoy looked very solid in a very complicated offense. When things start to slow down, he will be pretty darn good and get a LOT more opportunities this season than he did last season. The only serious hit to his value will be Weaver/Bell stealing goal line scores.

rzrback77 said:

I think that there is some confusion about McCoy's projections for 2010. Broad general statements about his success and the fact that Westbrook is gone foster the higher numbers while others remain less optimistic.

I think that it is good to note that Westbrook only played in eight games last year and only had double digit carries on weeks one and two. I think that the folks counting on McCoy to pick up all of Westbrook's load will be surprised that was almost the case a year ago.

There was also a substantial rookie wall effect for McCoy last year. Consider the following:

First eleven games McCoy 123 rushes for 528 yards 4.29 ypc
Last 6 games including playoffs 37 carries for 129 yards 3.49 ypc

The receptions stayed fairly steady over the course of the season, but the number of rushing attempts and the yards per carry fell off severely at the end of the season. In fact, down the stretch Leonard Weaver had close to the same number of carries.

When realizing the lack of impact that Westbrook had in 09 and also considering that the Eagles added Mike Bell, a hard working guy capable of doing the tough running that some question McCoy's effectiveness in running up the middle, I see some valid concerns that could limit the opportunities for McCoy to improve greatly on his rookie season efforts. The key to his value in my opinion will be where his ADP winds up. Currently, he is going as RB 18 and 41 overall, in the same area as Anquan Boldin, Steve Smith (Car), Addai, and Ryan Mathews. I don't see myself grabbing him over any of those options.

Holy Schneikes said:

SELL HIGH in dynasty. I told everyone to sell high on Bush three years ago, and I see the same thing with Shady, only to a smaller degree and with less pomp.

He's not a great runner. He's not even a GOOD runner at the NFL level. His DVOA rank was 36th among RBs last year. He was 26th in success rate (which measures how effective a guy is keeping drives alive basically). Obviously, that's awful.

And it's not really that surprising. I know measurables aren't everything, but his were some of the worst I've ever seen for a guy drafted where he was. He had a 29" vert and an 8'11" broad (at his PRO DAY). He really just doesn't have the elite explosion you expect for a guy as small as he is. And that DOES seem to be translating on the field. He had one run longer than 20 yards all year long (same as Leonard Weaver). Lightning quick Mike Bell (yes, that is sarcasm) had four. Obviously, different team, different situation, but the point is, much like Bush McCoy isn't living up to the hype in terms of big plays. He does a little better as a receiver, but no RUNNING back can survive long in a featured role if he doesn't run well.

So will he be servicable this year? Maybe. But not for very long, because he will be replaced by a better runner - just like Bush was.

Watch out for Bell and/or the rookie Charles Scott to begin eating into his carries more quickly than you'd like. Scott is a favorite sleeper of mine for little to no investment.

Senior Writer Jason Wood said:

This is a situation where my being an Eagles fan and season ticket holder, I feel like what I see on the field somewhat overtakes what the numbers may suggest. I'll be honest, there wasn't one moment last year, watching LeSean, that I felt he was a difference maker. I'm not saying that's justifiable or that one's opinion isn't clouded by personal bias in retrospect, but I honestly can't think of a moment where I looked at McCoy playing and thought, "We hit a home run with this guy!" I can definitively say I felt that way at times with DeSean (obviously), Maclin (as the season progressed) and Celek (which surprised me as I wasn't expecting a lot out of him entering last year); but not McCoy.

Does that mean he can't or won't emerge in Year 2? Certainly not, but it's going to be hard for me to go all in.


LeSean McCoy projections

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