LeSean McCoy Is a Buffalo Bill. Wait, What?
Adam Schefter broke the Internet on Tuesday night with news that the Eagles had traded their Pro Bowl running back to Buffalo for linebacker Kiko Alonso, who missed the entire 2014 season with a torn ACL.
Something was set to happen with McCoy this offseason, as his $11.95 million cap number was large, especially for a running back in today's NFL. But LeSean McCoy is a household name -- partially thanks to fantasy football -- which is a reason this news is so big.
Did the Eagles get it right with McCoy? Is Buffalo nuts? Let's dive in.
LeSean McCoy had a down year in 2014. According to our Net Expected Points (NEP) metric -- which measures the number of (expected) points added or lost by a player over the course of a season -- it was the worst of his career.
|Year||Rushing NEP||Per Rush||Reception NEP||Total NEP|
Let's break this down a bit. The column on the far right is McCoy's Total NEP, which adds his Rushing and Reception NEP together to show the number of points added both on the ground and through the air. Receiving is much more efficient than rushing, so because of McCoy's bad -- really bad, actually -- receiving season, he's dinged quite a bit in the Total NEP department.
But from a rushing perspective, this past season wasn't an outlier for McCoy, per se. It certainly wasn't like 2013 -- which is in our database as the 11th best running back season (on the ground only) since 2000 -- but McCoy's 2014 campaign wasn't nearly as bad as some may think. Among the 17 backs with 200 or more carries, Shady ranked 11th in Rushing NEP per rush, ahead of players like Eddie Lacy and Alfred Morris.
McCoy's toe injury and offensive line woes were well documented last season, and perhaps that's part of the reason he had a decline over 2013, Chip Kelly's first year as head coach in Philly. But the real issue McCoy had last season came through the air -- his Reception NEP per target was an atrocious 0.04 (39 targets), when his career average through 2013 was 0.36. For some context, among those same high-volume backs mentioned earlier, a 0.36 Reception NEP per target average would have ranked 7th of 17 last season. And that was McCoy's average. Instead, McCoy ranked only ahead of "I don't know what catching the football means" Mark Ingram.
Maybe this has to do with Darren Sproles' arrival, but considering we're dealing with rates, it seems as though McCoy was just bad through the air last year.
And that is why folks perceive his 2014 as being so poor. Not really because of what he did on the ground.
McCoy's New Team
The Bills have a massive question mark at the quarterback position, a new head coach who's traditionally been ground-and-pound focused, and a new offensive coordinator who ran the ball just as much as he passed it in three of his four seasons with his old team.
Yeah, I'd say this offense is going to run through LeSean McCoy.
When Greg Roman, the Bills' offensive coordinator, was in San Francisco, the 49ers were one of the most run-heavy teams in the league.
Frank Gore was Roman's lead back during his four years in San Francisco, running the ball 250-plus times during each season. Even if you consider CJ Spiller, who won't be re-signed by the team, no player on the Buffalo Bills roster has reached 250 carries in a season. None.
LeSean McCoy has done it in three of his six years in the NFL.
With no option at quarterback right now, the obvious thought process from the Bills front office was to get a player who can handle the load. And not just carry the load, but do it effectively.
It isn't overly surprising then, I suppose, to see Buffalo go after a player like McCoy given all of this. They needed a piece -- some sort of piece -- with few question marks. They needed a player to legitimately carry the offense. So they went out and got him.
The real concerns come from the financial side of things, but that can be dealt with as long as the Bills properly utilize their new weapon. Given the history of these coaches, I have no doubt that they will.
I realize that I didn't even touch Kiko Alonso, who could have a really bright future in the NFL as long as he fully recovers from his ACL tear. When you factor in his upside (and already proven play when healthy) with the Eagles' salary dump and a potentially strong running back draft class, you can see why this trade makes sense for Philadelphia. This is especially true if the Eagles see McCoy's decline -- especially in the receiving game -- in 2014 as something significant.
But that doesn't mean it was a loss for Buffalo. A good trade is always described as one where both sides win, and I think that could be the case here. Though Buffalo may be overspending for a position that's become more and more replaceable in this NFL era, the franchise knows who's in charge of the team and the offense: two incredibly run-focused minds who will do whatever they can to get a player like LeSean McCoy the football. The Bills defense without Alonso last year, too, ranked second in the NFL according to our schedule-adjusted metrics.
Really, the Bills' offense, without a quarterback, needs LeSean McCoy. And that's why they won, too.