The battle for fantasy football supremacy isn’t won by the players we expect to be great; it’s all about getting the most of what you pay for. Finding a treasure in the second round—one who can produce at the rate of those going early in the first—can put your team on the fast track to the championship.
Enter LeSean McCoy.
McCoy's struggles last season have been well documented. Inconsistency, injuries and perplexing play-calling derailed the high expectations his team and fantasy owners had for him.
Luckily for all parties involved who anguished over his underwhelming performance, the man known as “Shady” will return to prominence in a big way this season.
With the wheels already coming off, losing starting center Jason Kelce in Week 2 to a torn MCL and ACL added insult to injury.
While the duo of Michael Vick and Nick Foles suffered greatly because of those injuries—combining to take 48 sacks, fifth-most in the league last season—the effect on McCoy was just as severe, as he was unable to find many holes to exploit behind his patchwork offensive line.
That was last season, however, and those guys are now back and healthy. With first-round pick (fourth overall) Lane Johnson now in the mix as well, McCoy will be running behind the best offensive line he’s ever had.
New Head Coach
Despite all the flak Andy Reid has taken the last few seasons, nobody will dispute the fact that he’s a great head coach. He just wasn’t the right fit for a player as talented as McCoy.
Quite simply, Reid was a pass-happy coach. Never content to go four or five yards at a time, the mystique of the big play was always too enticing for him. Even at the expense of his best player.
To put that into perspective, the Eagles threw the ball 618 times last season, ranking seventh in the league. They ran it only 413 times. When you have a quarterback as competent as Tom Brady, Peyton Manning or Drew Brees, or even Matthew Stafford or Matt Ryan, those bloated passing totals are fine.
But when your quarterbacks aren’t even completing 60 percent of their passes, you have a problem. It’s no surprise that the Eagles finished 24th in the league in passer rating.
So who did the Eagles find to replace their departed head coach? None other than Chip Kelly, the mastermind of the vaunted Oregon Ducks offense.
When breaking down the offensive splits behind the furious Ducks attack, it shows nearly the opposite pass/rush differential than that of Reid’s Eagles. Last season, the Ducks ran the ball a mind-boggling 686 times while passing it only 373 times.
Granted, this is the NFL, and Kelly won’t be able to do the same things he did in the collegiate ranks. But if the numbers of the Eagles and the Ducks last season meet somewhere in the middle in 2013, the biggest beneficiary will be LeSean "Shady" McCoy.
His 16.7 carries per game are sure to increase, and an increase in his workload will almost assuredly bring an increase in production—both in fantasy and the game itself.
I’m going on the record right now in declaring that last season will be viewed as an outlier in McCoy’s career.
The numbers weren’t pretty. Anyone who used a top-five pick last season and received only 1,213 total yards from scrimmage and five touchdowns will surely be wary of welcoming him back on their team.
But don’t forget why McCoy was a consensus top-five pick to begin with. Last season aside, his career trajectory was undeniably going up each and every season, culminating with over 1,600 yards from scrimmage and 20 total touchdowns in the 2011 season.
It all comes down to which season you perceive to be his truer form. With an upgraded line and a new, run-oriented offensive system, I’m betting it’s his 2011 showing.
His average draft position in ESPN draft lobbies is currently 14th. For a guy who has the potential to be a top-five running back this season, this constitutes a steal. Pairing him with another elite running back or quarterback is fantasy gold.
Taking McCoy early in the second round could be your ticket to the playoffs, assuming you draft well everywhere else.