Why We Like LeSean McCoy So Much

Terrible Mike Vick, injured offensive line, coaching turnover. Don't let last year's mess scare you away from Shady.

A short memory is often a good thing in the NFL. Quarterbacks need to have the ability to shake off interceptions and keep playing. Same with ball carriers and fumbles or kickers and missed chip shots. A short memory is not as good in fantasy football, when players become underrated based off their most recent performance rather than their overall body of work.

In our draft cheatsheet, we have LeSean McCoy ranked as the third-best running back. In mock drafts, he’s currently the eighth running back taken, on average. ESPN has him ranked as the 10th best running back. So what gives?

McCoy did suffer a concussion last season that limited him to just 12 games, and in some of those, he wasn’t at full speed. He ran for only 840 yards, fewest since his rookie year in 2009. Concussions are scary, but McCoy is ready to go for Week One. This is not some Adrian Peterson-recovering-from-major-knee-surgery situation, where no one really knows what to expect from him. By all accounts he’s healthy and ready to play. The injury shouldn’t be a concern that knocks him down draft boards.

Even though McCoy’s total output was low, his per-game numbers looked just fine. On the year, he averaged over 101 total yards per game, which extrapolated out over a 16-game season would be 1617 yards. That’s only 55 yards fewer than in his breakout 2010 season, and a mere 7 fewer than his monster 2011. While you’re busy knocking him for a crummy year, realize that his per-game production was basically in line with his career numbers.

All About Touchdowns

But of course fantasy owners only care about points, and the quickest way to rack up points is scoring touchdowns. McCoy didn’t do too much of that last year, which has to be one of the reasons he’s so undervalued coming into this season. He ran for only two TDs in 2012, although he did catch three others. But coming off his monster, 20-TD 2011, those 5 scores looked pretty paltry to fantasy owners.

You may not have noticed, but the Eagles’ red-zone offense was basically a tire fire last season. Mike Vick committed four turnovers inside opponents’ 20 yard line. He also took six sacks, which is a crucial mistake in that part of the field. Not good. All told, the Eagles scored touchdowns on 44 percent of their trips to the red zone, good for 28th in the league.

There’s not a lot of reason to expect that to continue. First off, if Vick plays that poorly in the red zone again, he’ll be out of a job pretty early on. Second, the Eagles haven’t always been this terrible in the red zone. In other words, it’s not a chronic problem. In 2011, Philadelphia got to the end zone in 51.5 percent of their red zone trips, 14th in the league. In 2010, that number was 52.5 percent, and 16th in the league. If they can get back to being merely league average in the red zone – and the numbers say that’s what they are with this core offensive group – there will be plenty more touchdowns to go around. It would be very surprising if Shady (assuming health) only runs for two touchdowns again.

Offensive Line Woes

Vick’s turnovers weren’t the only problem on last year’s squad. The offensive line was an absolute mess. The Eagles started nine different linemen last year, fourth-most in the league. That Frankenstein line allowed 48 sacks, fifth-highest in the league, although they weren’t helped by Vick’s scrambling.

And the o-line’s problems weren’t limited to pass protection. According to Football Outsiders’ Adjusted Line Yards statistic, which takes running back carries and adjusts for down, distance, opponent, situation and formation, the Eagles ranked just 28th in all of football. Compare that to just two years ago, when Philadelphia ranked 10th in the league in that same category. Thanks to injuries and poor play, the Eagles’ offensive line has been a disaster the last two seasons, and especially so last year.

But there are reasons to believe that too will turn around. All-Pro Jason Peters will be back at left tackle after he missed all of 2012 with an Achilles injury. Starting center Jason Kelce and right tackle Todd Herremans will also be back after having their seasons cut short. The Eagles drafted tackle Lane Johnson with the fourth overall pick in the draft, and he is competing for a starting job somewhere on the line. And the team brought in new offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland from the University of Alabama. There is basically no way the offensive line could play worse, barring another round of injuries even more brutal than last year’s. It should be fun to see what McCoy can do running behind a real line.

Our Projections

When we run our projections, which are available on our draft cheatsheet, we also look at comparable seasons. We factor in the type of player, and his career arc. For McCoy, we found an interesting group of comps. Marshall Faulk, Ray Rice’s best year, Ricky Williams after he came back and was good – the numbers say to expect similar level of production from Shady.

Comparable PlayerYearFantasy Output
James Allen2000154
Marshall Faulk2002207
Ray Rice2009249
Joseph Addai2009193
Ricky Williams2009213