Well there it is – LeSean McCoy gets traded, and the first real fantasy domino falls in the 2015 calendar year.
In a previous article, I talked about how Chip Kelly was one of the big question marks of the 2015 fantasy off-season, and he has not let us down. News broke Tuesday that Kelly traded his All Pro running back, LeSean McCoy, to Rex Ryan and the Buffalo Bills. McCoy has been a consensus top ten pick in fantasy leagues for the past four years, and even in a down year in 2014 that disappointed his fantasy owners, he had 1,474 total yards and 5 touchdowns. A career low in receptions, along with many lost goal-line carries, soured a lot of owners and had a drastic effect on his fantasy numbers (But surprisingly, only DeMarcus Murray had more rushing yards from weeks 5-17 than McCoy).
So that brings us to 2015 and begs the question, what can we expect of McCoy in this upcoming season? Before I get into that, I would like to take a look at the typical Rex Ryan offense, and how often they run the ball. Following are numbers for the Jets and Eagles since 2009, when Ryan became coach of the New York Jets and McCoy entered the league through the draft.
Jets Rush Attempts per game/NFL Rank:
2014 – 31.7/3rd | 2013 – 30.8/4th | 2012 – 30.9/7th | 2011 – 27.7/17th | 2010 – 32.8/2nd | 2009 – 37.7/1st
Eagles Rush Attempts per game/NFL Rank:
2014 – 29.8/7th | 2013 – 30.8/5th | 2012 – 25.8/19th | 2011 -28.1/10th | 2010 – 26.4/21st | 2009 – 23.4/28th
Taking those numbers into account, we should all be able to agree on one thing - Rex Ryan likes to run the ball. In four of the last six years, Ryan’s offenses have finished in the top four in rush attempts, and only finished outside of the top seven once. In that same time frame, McCoy has averaged 1,132 rushing yards per season, in spite of the fact that the Eagles have rarely been among the leaders in rushing attempts.
With that in mind, I predict that McCoy will continue to be a top tier back, worthy of being drafted in round one or early in round two in all fantasy formats. With the trade for perpetually-pedestrian QB Matt Cassel, it’s obvious that the Bills will need to ride the explosive McCoy in the running game and play great defense to win games. For his career, McCoy averages more than four yards per carry and more than seven yards per reception. I would expect Ryan to give him 300-plus carries, and also involve him in the passing game with 50-plus receptions. If he gets back into the mix for goal-line carries, I predict that he will have 1,600-plus total yards, and 10-plus touchdowns in 2015, numbers that should easily keep him in the RB1 conversation. I personally like McCoy in a Rex Ryan offense, and expect big things from him in 2015.
As for the Eagles and their running game, there are more questions than answers right now, and Darren Sproles and Chris Polk are definitely not the answers to a solid running game. Sproles is a great pass catcher out of the backfield and excels in the return game, but Polk has not proven anything at the NFL level other than the ability to vulture touchdowns. But we’ll wait and watch as the Eagles grand plan plays out in the next couple of weeks. Trading McCoy and his salary freed up a lot of cap space, and the Eagles may be in play for DeMarco Murray, which would be a huge slap in the face to the Cowboys. Philadelphia has huge needs in the secondary, and they need a pass rusher as well, so it will be interesting to see how they spend the money that was freed up with this trade. The Eagles were not good in the red zone last year, which made a fantasy star out of kicker Cody Parkey. Should they decide to trade up in the draft for Marcus Mariota, they will want a top-notch running back that will help take some of the pressure off Mariota in his rookie year.
So keep an eye on the Eagles over the next month. If they end up with a rookie quarterback AND a rookie running back, that would not be the recipe for fantasy success, and you’ll want to temper your draft plans accordingly!
Written by Ryan Thyer. Follow me on Twitter @bignoahd05