The Fantasy Implications of Lesean McCoy to Buffalo

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The NFL world and Fantasy Football world were turned on it’s head this past week with the shocking trade of Lesean McCoy to the Buffalo Bills in exchange for Kiki Alonso.  Coming into 2014, McCoy was a fantasy darling.  He had 1600+ yards on the ground and 500+ through the air in 2013, to go along with 11 total touchdowns.  Everything seemed primed for another top 3 finish for Shady.  But then something happened.

Instead of this self-proclaimed-best-runner-in-football showing up to play, he showed up to dance.  And his dance lacked rhythm, and his coach noticed.  Perhaps a little too sure of himself, perhaps a little stubborn in the Chip Kelly offense, McCoy failed to put up the same numbers and big plays that we had come to expect from him.  Seeing his YPC drop from 5.1 to 4.2, McCoy put up a modest season by his standards and put himself squarely on the chopping block due to his high salary and underwhelming performance.

And so we find ourselves here: McCoy shipped off to Rex Ryan and the new-look Buffalo Bills and an Eagles backfield full of unknowns.

I wanted to take a few minutes to look at the implications of a Rex/Shady pairing and forecast a bit in terms of what the average Fantasy Player should expect from Shady in 2015.

Let’s take a look at Rex’s six years in New York and how his running game faired:

Rushing Attempts/Game
2014 – #3
2013 – #6
2012 – #12
2011 – #22
2010 – #4
2009 – #1

We know Rex loves to run the ball.  The entirety of his defense-first mentality is predicated on clock management and jam-it-down-your-throat offense.  But what about his running backs in those years?

In 2009 he rode Thomas Jones to 330+ attempts on the ground, and 14 touchdowns.  Jones finished the year as the #5 fantasy running back.

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In 2010 the combination of LaDanian Tomlinson, Danny Woodhead and Shonne Greene combined for 394 fantasy points, which would have been far and away the #1 RB had the totes been given to one guy for the most part.

In 2011 the Shonne Greene and LaDanian Tomlinson combo began to underwhelm but still combined for 1300 total yards on the ground, with some Joe McKnight mixed in.

In 2012 Shonne Greene and Bilal Powell combined for 386 carries and enough fantasy points to put the duo in the top 5 overall in fantasy points.

In 2013, the Jets running game was pretty much a disaster.  Powell and Chris Ivory combined for a mere 205 fantasy points and combined for only 4 touchdowns on the ground.

And then we have last year, 2014.  The Jets ran it about 350 times between Ivory and Chris Johnson, and the duo combined for about 250 fantasy points.

Clearly there is a connection between offensive success overall and success on the ground.  During his early years, despite talent that wasn’t too much different than his later years, the fantasy production was far greater.  Rex wants to run the ball, but running the ball is dependent on not being behind by 30 points and having a defense that is up to snuff.

Conclusions:

Buffalo was the #4 overall defense last year in total yards given up and points given up per game.  Rex is a defensive guru and I believe that Buffalo will remain a top 5 defense.  The securing of a competent starting quarterback in Matt Cassel will help the cause as well.

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Shady will step into a backfield likely to contain Fred Jackson (34) and Bryce Brown (23). 

This will be Shady’s backfield and I would expect the totes to break down as follows, barring injury:

Lesean McCoy – 270 carries
Fred Jackson – 95 carries
Bryce Brown – 40 carries

Projecting McCoy to be in the 4.7 range in YPC and active in the passing game, I could see a season that looks like 1300 on the ground, 400 through the air, and a combined touchdown total in the 10 range.

Implications:

McCoy should be a top 10 fantasy running back next season, likely in the back half of that top 10, improving at least slightly on his production from last year.  Draft accordingly!

Comments

Kevin says:

Great piece, Andy. I’m 100% behind McCoy as a top-5 RB this year given the high volume headed his way. I’m most curious to see how his receiving numbers end up, especially with the state of Buffalo’s QBs. None of those guys push the ball down the field very well … although there are plenty of talented pass catchers who could limit McCoy’s targets.

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