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2017 First Round Bust

By Kevin English | Updated on Tue, 23 May 2023 . 1:27 PM EDT

We’ll give credit where credit is due — this guy was awesome in 2016.

He piled up 1,267 rushing yards on 5.4 per attempt. He scored 14 total TDs and added 50 catches for 356 yards.

When the dust settled, Bills RB LeSean McCoy ranked 4th among RBs in PPR scoring.

Is he capable of a repeat in 2017? Sure. But there are red flags that lead us to issue a Round 1 bust warning. His current My Fantasy League ADP is 1.09 as the RB4. (And we’ve seen him go as high as 4th overall.)

Let’s look at why you should avoid McCoy in the 1st round of your fantasy draft.

2016 Review

We know McCoy left fantasy owners smiling last year. And if past season stats could just be rolled over to the next — he’d be sittin’ pretty.

But we forecast regression.

McCoy posted 293 yards and 5 TDs in 2 homes games vs. Cleveland and San Francisco. Those 2 outings accounted for 38.5% of his TDs and 23.1% of his yards for the season.

Of course, both teams stunk. The 49ers and Browns ranked 31st and 32nd, respectively, in rushing yards surrendered. They were the bottom 2 fantasy units in non-PPR points allowed to RBs; bottom 3 in PPR.

That helps explain McCoy’s unusually high TD number. He scored once every 18 carries last fall — the 2nd best rate of his career. (His most efficient year was 2011 with 1 TD every 16 carries.)

From his rookie year (2009) to 2015, McCoy averaged 1 TD rush every 35 attempts. If you took that rate and applied it to last year, he would have scored 6.7 times. Even if we round up to 7, that’s 6 fewer TDs than his 2016 total. We should expect TD regression in 2017.

McCoy was also hyper-efficient yardage-wise, posting a career-best 5.4 yards per carry. That’s up from his career average of 4.7 and marks a full yard boost off his 2015 total.

Finally, McCoy had a career-best 87.9% catch rate — far exceeding the 65.3% he tallied in 2015. He’ll be hard-pressed to improve on that. And it’s tough to see him garnering more than his 3.9 targets per game with Sammy Watkins likely to play more than the 8 games he did last year.

Pesky Injuries

McCoy’s 2 seasons in Buffalo have produced 5 missed games. He’s fortunate that number isn’t higher.

In 2015, McCoy suffered a Grade 2 hamstring pull on August 15. He didn’t return to team drills until September 9. After suiting up for Week 1, McCoy re-aggravated the hammy in practice. He played the following 2 Sundays before being shut down for a pair of games.

Fast forward to Week 9, and McCoy again showed up on the injury report — this time with a shoulder strain following 2 in-game incidents. It was severe enough for an MRI, but McCoy didn’t miss any time.

Then in Week 15, McCoy went down with a torn right MCL. Season over.

Last year, the veteran missed just 1 game. But he again showed shaky durability.

It started early. McCoy missed 1 week of OTAs with a hamstring/ankle injury. He stayed clean until an October 19 practice, when Shady’s hamstring woes returned. The diagnosis? A mid-to-moderate hamstring strain, per team sources.

Despite not fully recovering, Shady suited up the following Sunday. A matchup with Miami turned up a re-aggravation, forcing him to miss the following week vs. New England.

McCoy experienced a duo of injuries going forward — a dislocated thumb in Week 11 and a high ankle sprain in Week 17. McCoy missed 1 half with the thumb — which required surgery — but nothing beyond that. The ankle cost him 3 quarters of play. If it had happened earlier in the season, he likely would have missed 4+ games.

So, while McCoy hasn’t suffered a devastating injury, we’ve seen a pattern of nagging ones. And while he’s stayed healthy this offseason, we can’t ignore the damage this 5’11, 208-pounder has taken.

Our sister site, Sports Injury Predictor, factored in several variables to conclude that McCoy boasts an elevated injury risk in 2017. In fact, early SIP model results show him with the 2nd highest probability of injury among RBs this season.

Age Concerns

McCoy turned 29 on July 12. We’ve seen RBs produce high-end numbers at that age (or older), but it’s uncommon.

From 2012-2016, only 6 of the 50 top-10 fantasy RBs (PPR) were age 29+: LeGarrette Blount (RB9, 2016), Adrian Peterson (RB2, 2015) Danny Woodhead (RB3, 2015), DeAngelo Williams (RB6, 2015), Matt Forte (RB7, 2015) and Frank Gore (RB10, 2012).

If we examine the top-10 fantasy RBs over the past 5 years, their average age is 26.2 — exactly 3 years younger than McCoy.

And it makes sense. These guys take a ton of punishment and tend to wear down later in their careers. Independent studies by both ESPN and Football Perspective have found that RBs peak around 26 or 27.

Ultimately, we’re playing the odds. And when it comes to betting on an older RB providing top-tier RB1 totals — one who sits 2nd in carries since 2013 — the odds simply aren’t in his favor.


McCoy probably won’t hurt for volume. He’s proven, and the Bills are paying him a boat load of money.

We get it.

OC Rick Dennison even looks like a fine choice for play-caller. He might not be as run-crazed as Rex Ryan, but 3 of his 9 offenses as an OC have finished top-10 in rush attempts. Dennison called the shots for 3 of Arian Foster’s best seasons — albeit when the 230-pound bruiser entered his age 24, 25 and 26 seasons.

But don’t assume McCoy will garner a Foster-like workload.

“We’ll see what he can handle,” new HC Sean McDermott said of Shady in training camp. “We’ll put him in a position to be successful and try to manage the downside. Running backs, you’d love for them to take every rep of a game, but for LeSean that’s not realistic. We’ll see how it goes week to week.”

We’ve also seen 2 different coaching staffs — Rex Ryan’s and Chip Kelly’s — reduce McCoy’s role near the goal line. We’ll see how McDermott and Co. divvy up the red-zone work.

Now, projected backup Jonathan Williams is largely unproven. But we shouldn’t discount him as a potential threat to McCoy’s upside.

Williams has the profile of a natural fill-in for departed RB Mike Gillislee. The current Patriot scored 8 rushing TDs a year ago — 7 from the 5-yard line or closer.

Williams brings goal line size at 6’0, 223 pounds. He handed just 27 carries last year in a reserve role but exited Arkansas with plenty of hype. He broke out with a 211-1,190-12 line in 2014. Ready for another dynamic season, Williams instead suffered a foot injury in August of 2015. Surgery wiped out his entire senior year.

So, Williams fell to the Bills in Round 5. On talent alone, though, many draft gurus considered the pick a steal. Count NFL film aficionado Greg Cosell among them. Here are some highlights from 1 particularly gushy piece he penned last year.

- Cosell saw Williams as being “quicker laterally than Ezekiel Elliott.”

- He noted Williams’ excellent size and ability to run inside.

- Cosell praised Williams’ ability to run in any scheme.

The 23-year-old doesn’t just have fans outside the organization. McDermott said in OTAs that “Jonathan Williams’ development will be key to our success moving forward.” That notion was backed up by a recent tweet from Joe Buscaglia, 1 of our favorite sources on the Bills beat.

Offensive Line

Buffalo supported the run game very well last season. McCoy averaged 3.0 yards per attempt before first contact — #1 among RBs, per Pro Football Focus (min. 150 carries). In total, he averaged a stunning 18.6% more yards before contact than any other RB.

Certainly, some of that’s a testament to McCoy’s make-you-miss ability. But it’s also reasonable to expect some natural regression for this offensive line — especially with a new HC (McDermott), OC (Dennison) and O-line coach (Juan Castillo) on board. Buffalo’s also installing a new blocking scheme heavy on zone concepts.

While this unit returns some familiar faces, they bring question marks, too. LT Cordy Glenn missed 1 game with a back injury and 4 with an ankle ailment last year. The latter injury lingered into the offseason — and limited him for the open of training camp.

C Eric Wood, 31, appeared in just 9 games last year before suffering a season-ending broken leg that required a plate and screws to be inserted. He’s also been limited at the start of camp.

The other potential problem spot is at RT, where Jordan Mills is battling Temple rookie Dion Dawkins. Mills, a 26-year-old journeyman, performed poorly across 16 starts last season. Dawkins showed well in a lackluster conference, but we’ll see how his power translates outside in the NFL.

Wrap Up

McCoy now sits 9th in our non-PPR rankings; 8th in PPR. We currently project him to miss 2 games due to injury.

Barring some exotic scoring, your MVP Board won’t recommend Shady in Round 1. And given his age, injury risk and likely regression … we’re good with that.

Kevin English Author Image
Kevin English, Senior Analyst
Kevin brings 15 years of experience as a fantasy analyst and mid-stakes competitor across various formats (redraft, best ball, dynasty, DFS). His work has been featured on The Mercury News, Rotoworld, and FantasyPros.
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