FF Tips

Does LeSean McCoy's move to Buffalo help his fantasy value?

By Matt Schauf 9:09am EST 3/4/15

Chip Kelly ain't scared.

Assuming the LeSean McCoy-to-Buffalo trade goes through without a hitch, the Eagles HC will have dumped his top 2 offensive weapons over consecutive offseasons.

In 2014, Philly axed WR DeSean Jackson because of his bad attitude (at least, as far as we know). Now comes McCoy -- probably an even more surprising move because he never showed the me-first attitude on the field that often made Jackson so frustrating.

So, why did the Eagles deal their leading rusher, the guy who carried 312+ times in each of Kelly's 1st 2 seasons at the helm?

Money probably played a part. McCoy's contract includes a $10.25 million cap hit, the largest for any of the deal's 5 seasons. And he's due to count $7.15 million and $7.85 million against the cap the 2 following years. That's not outlandish money, but it makes him the 2nd-most expensive RB in the league behind Adrian Peterson right now.

If money were driving this move, though, then wouldn't the Eagles have at least approached Shady about some kind of contract restructuring? They didn't. And they began Tuesday about $33 million under the 2015 salary cap. So they could have afforded the guy who rushed for more yardage over the past 5 seasons than any other player in the league.

Even as the Birds handed McCoy the 2nd-most carries in the league last year, they clearly started to sour on him a bit. He dipped by 24 receptions from his 2013 total for a career-low 28 catches. He tied for just 23rd in the league in rushing TDs (5), totaling 1 fewer than teammate Darren Sproles. Philly often pulled McCoy in red-zone and goal-line situations after letting him carry on 1st down. And an unimpressive 4.2 yards per rush -- which stood at 2.9 through 5 games -- didn't command much extra work.

Did Chip Kelly see a declining runner reaching a prime selling point, with his contract going up? We probably won't know the full answer. And that doesn't really matter.


The fantasy impact

We're not psychologists here. We're fantasy football players. So the motivation for the trade sending the Pennsylvania native north doesn't particularly affect us. We just want to know what it'll mean for the numbers.


Good landing spot

It's tough to argue that leaving Chip Kelly's run-favoring offense can help a RB, but this move probably helps McCoy's 2015 fantasy football value.

Shady's 28 receptions last season ranked just 34th among RBs. Five teams had 2 or more backs that caught more balls than McCoy, including 3 from New Orleans and 3 from Detroit. After catching 40+ passes in each of his 1st 5 seasons -- including 3 years of 52 or more -- McCoy would seem to be a pretty good bet for improvement in that category.

That's not a given under OC Greg Roman, however. We pointed out in early February that Roman's 49ers offenses didn't throw to RBs very much. Last year, Frank Gore and Carlos Hyde combined to snag only 23 passes. And McCoy might have to share some of those receiving numbers with Fred Jackson. Of course, we can't really know how much of the San Fran plan was Roman's and how much belonged to HC Jim Harbaugh -- or even how much of it was driven by personnel. Stepfan Taylor tied for 3rd on his Stanford team with 28 receptions in 2010, the final Cardinal season for Roman and Harbaugh before they moved to the Niners together.

Let's call that area a wash for McCoy for now.

But the Bills certainly didn't trade away Kiko Alonso and commit more than $10 million in 2015 cap space for a RB who's just gonna head a committee. McCoy should be the new workhorse in Buffalo, which figures to provide him plenty of work. Roman's Niners offenses finished 3rd, 7th, 3rd and 9th in the league in rushing attempts the past 4 years, and HC Rex Ryan has already talked about his new team going "ground and pound."

That should include giving McCoy back the goal-line stuff that he lost alarmingly often to Sproles and Chris Polk in 2014. McCoy ran for 9 TDs in Kelly's 1st season and a league-high 17 back in 2011. He has never showed any weakness as a red-zone rusher. Moving to Buffalo should at least allow him to improve on last year's paltry scoring total, and perhaps contend for double digits again.


The other Bills backs

Fred Jackson looks like the handcuff for McCoy and might steal some of his receiving work. But, again, the Bills didn't make this move to get someone to share the field with Jackson. McCoy will take the job.

C.J. Spiller? Definitely gone in free agency.

Bryce Brown? Back to being roster filler and a factor only if multiple backs go down.

Anthony Dixon? Sorry, but if you were raising your hopes for "Boobie" to have a meaningful 2015, then you were already setting yourself up for disappointment.

And the rest of the Bills' offense? Well, adding 1 of the league's top backs in his prime to your stable can only strengthen the unit and help create some opportunities in the passing game. WR Sammy Watkins should benefit.


The Philly Phallout

Kelly would probably say -- and might do so in the coming days -- that he'd feel comfy going into the season with Polk and Sproles leading his backfield. We wouldn't bet on that happening.

This year's draft class runs deep in RB options, featuring factor backs that the Eagles could probably pluck as late as the 4th round and plug into their 2015 rotation. Don't be surprised if they draft a guy at some point.

But there's also underrated value in the free-agent class. That includes Spiller, whom the Eagles reportedly tried to acquire last offseason. Shane Vereen would also bring a rushing-receiving dual threat at a cheaper price tag, plus a Pac-12 pedigree that probably doesn't hurt him in Kelly's eyes. Even Roy Helu or Ahmad Bradshaw could bring some versatility and intrigue.

Whomever Kelly grabs to stock his backfield, you can bet we'll be interested in the fantasy-scoring potential. And we'll wait to see what happens there before digging too deep into the Sproles and Polk projections. Sproles, however, should have an easier time holding on to his role. He's a tougher player to replicate. Polk looks solid but isn't special in any area.


The IDP side

Oh yeah, there was 1 other dude in this whole Philly-Buffalo trade.

Kiko Alonso exploded onto the IDP scene as a 2013 rookie, spending most of the year among the top-5 LB scorers and finishing inside the top 10. Then he missed all of last season with a torn left ACL.

Alonso suffered that injury at the beginning of July, however, and has said that his knee will be 100% in time for training camp. He should step into the Eagles' lineup as an ILB starter next to Mychal Kendricks, in place of vet DeMeco Ryans -- who suffered an Achilles' tendon tear last year.

Alonso racked up 159 tackles and 4 INTs as a Bills rookie and has made plays in coverage since his college days at Oregon. Kendricks, meanwhile, is a speedy, versatile LB who has proved particularly adept at coming forward as a pass-rusher. The 2 could form 1 of the league's best interior combos, with room for both to produce quality IDP numbers. Ryans and Kendricks managed to do just that over the 2nd half of 2013 before injuries cost each of them multiple games in 2014.

The new Eagle should be good for at least LB3 production in your IDP league, with upside all the way up to LB1 territory.

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