Hey, Fantasy Football Owners: LeSean McCoy Is Back

I hope you didn't make the same mistake I did, because LeSean McCoy is back, and he's going to single-handedly win fantasy leagues.

I traded LeSean McCoy. It was a huge mistake.

The numberFire staff is participating in a fantasy football league, and I had the first pick (as you may remember). I traded LeSean McCoy after his slow start to pick up Emmanuel Sanders and Philip Rivers, as I badly needed a consistent quarterback (streaming is difficult in a 14-team league) and thought I could get by without McCoy.

I was wrong, and it will more than likely lead to my team falling further and further behind without my first-overall pick and star player.

In other words, I didn't heed the advice of our Graham Barfield, who urged those who drafted Shady to stand pat. Because LeSean McCoy is back, and his performance in Week 6 proved that trading him for anything less than another elite, first-round talent was a mistake.

A Look Back

Coming into Week 6, the New York Giants had a run defense that was ranked in the middle of the pack among NFL teams according to our Adjusted Defensive Rushing Net Expected Points metric ("adjusted" refers to adjustments made for strength of schedule). That's a pretty tough test for a player like McCoy, who had previously been struggling this season.

In fact, McCoy was the least-productive running back in the league entering Week 6, totaling the lowest Rushing NEP and the third-lowest Success Rate (which determines how often a carry is deemed a "success," or gains positive NEP). But he turned that all around against the rival Giants, continuing a trend that began the week before.

In Week 5, Shady started to find room to run, making one quick move in the backfield and getting into open space. In Week 6, he did that more and more often, finding running room behind an improving offensive line (with right tackle Lane Johnson back in the fold) and breaking off big plays.

That was reflected in his NEP, which was nearly four-times better than his previous high for a game this year. Totaling nearly five Rushing NEP on the evening, Shady was back to the level of performance that saw him among the league's best last year, even on a heavy workload.

So where does McCoy go from here? That answer will bring joy to those who have held onto him, and dismay to those (like me) who chickened out and accepted pennies on the dollar for the best back in football.

Looking Ahead

After the Eagles bye week in Week 7, McCoy and his teammates will face the Cardinals, Texans, Panthers and Packers. Using data from the first five weeks, that means his matchups will get progressively easier culminating in a cake matchup with the Packers in Week 11.

Week 11 is also when some of the long-term injuries along the line in Philadelphia should be fully healed, as Graham mentioned in the article linked above. That means in the crucial final stretch of the fantasy season, McCoy will be facing the worst rushing defense in the NFL (at this point) with a healthy line and the momentum of a season on the upswing.

Bottom-11 run defenses from Tennessee and Dallas are on the schedule in Weeks 12 and 13, and the Cowboys come up against in Week 15. Championship Week features a game against Washington, which is currently middle-of-the-road (very similar in our data to the Giants).

There are plenty of great matchups ahead for McCoy, who appears to be running better than ever. He has the trust of his coaches, and continues to get the ball despite his early season struggles, because the offense simply works better when he's heavily involved.

So if some fool in your league is still willing to trade LeSean McCoy, offer nearly anything on your roster to get him. If you made the mistake of getting rid of him, as I did, my apologies and commiserations. Because Shady is back, and he's going to carry some fantasy owners to championships that seemed out of reach just a couple of weeks ago.