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In case you’ve missed it, here at The Fantasy Authority we have been taking a look at players with similar average draft position and throwing down.  This time it’s LeSean McCoy or Eddie Lacy?  Who you got?

 

LeSean McCoy

Travis May (@FF_TravisM)

The Rise

If you have been playing fantasy football very long, then LeSean McCoy is no stranger.  From the day he stepped onto the NFL football field he was a force to be reckoned with.  By 2011, McCoy was a staple of first rounds in fantasy football drafts.

The beauty of LeSean McCoy’s game came to it’s fullest fruition when he led the league in rushing in 2013 with 1607 yards on the ground.  Not only that, but he grabbed 52 balls for 539 more yards and a couple scores.

It seemed the sky was truly the limit for the 25-year-old LeSean McCoy.  Then something awful happened.

 

The Fall

Chip Kelly, circa 2014.  He would misuse and underutilize McCoy in random stretches for no apparent reason.  At times he would let him play, and it was beautiful.  Then the next week he would take the ball out of McCoy’s hands only giving him ten carries.  It was mind-blowing & frustrating for his fantasy owners.

It’s not that LeSean McCoy had an absolutely terrible season in 2014.  McCoy actually finished the year with 1319 yards on the ground, and 155 through the air.  The issue was the inconsistency through the season, and of course that he screwed so many fantasy owners over come playoff time.   In standard leagues McCoy gave his owners a whopping 5 points in week 13, then 6 in week 14 (horrible).

Then to make matters worse, Chip Kelly shipped McCoy off to Buffalo.  It seemed that McCoy’s early career magic was starting to fade.

Last season, McCoy was actually a pleasant surprise for those that chose to invest until he went down with an injury in week 12.  He was on pace for another 1200+ yard season on the ground with nearly 400 yards through the air.  Yet still, the fantasy football community is convinced he is now old and decrepit.  If not that, then he’s “injury prone” or something else that isn’t true.

 

The Opportunity

This is the season that the LeSean McCoy doubters could regret their hate the most.

Karlos Williams was supposed to be the heir to the throne of the Buffalo backfield, but he’s no longer even on the team.  The Bills did take former Arkansas running back Jonathan Williams in this year’s draft, but he’s looked completely uninspiring in the preseason.  They also thought it would be fun to kick the tires on Reggie Bush.  At 31 years old, he hasn’t been relevant since 2013 (and won’t be now).

There are zero real threats to LeSean McCoy’s touches this year with the Bills.  Plus, we all know Rex Ryan loves to run the ball.  Last year he already gave McCoy more than 19 touches per game.  This year, without a real running back two, they may lean even heavier on McCoy to keep the chains moving.  With Tyrod Taylor now firmly set as the established starter, McCoy has the perfect mix of talent and opportunity to thrive in a high-powered offense.

 

The Ceiling

So what can we really expect from LeSean McCoy this year?  Can he return to his old form?  The answer is yes.  In fact, his old form never went anywhere.  Since 2013, who do you think has led the NFL in rushing?  That’s right.  It’s LeSean McCoy with 3,821 yards.  Only one running back is within 500 yards of him over the past three seasons.  That’s DeMarco Murray, thanks to his monstrous year in Dallas.

McCoy is currently going off the board as the 10th running back right before Eddie Lacy.  If McCoy stays healthy this year, there is no reason he shouldn’t compete for the top fantasy running back overall, especially in PPR formats.  People seem to forget that he’s averaged nearly 50 catches per year over his career.

To sum up his ceiling, LeSean McCoy could finish with around 1500 yards rushing & 400 yards receiving. Where do those numbers come from?  Last year, the Buffalo Bills running backs ran the ball nearly 400 times. McCoy could take 80% of those carries for his career average yards per carry and be sitting with 1472 yards on the ground.  If he grabs 50 catches (like he’s also averaged) at his career average yards per reception number then he’ll land around 400 yards through the air.

If the touchdowns come with that kind of production then McCoy’s ceiling is the #1 RB in fantasy football.

 

Bottom Line

I know that’s a lot to ask of any running back.  LeSean McCoy is no guarantee for 1900 total yards.  He’s not even a guarantee for 1500.  However, in fantasy football, you’re looking for a few things when it comes to your feature backs: opportunity, talent, consistent floor and upside.  McCoy has all of those this year.  One could argue he may be the safest running back to draft in the entire league this year given where you can take him.  

The same cannot be said of Eddie Lacy, who costs about the same in most drafts right now.  Lacy is coming off his career worst season where he was embarrassingly benched at times for being too fat to finish plays, let alone complete drives.  The Packers offense should bounce back as a whole, but Eddie Lacy will be splitting carries and catches with James Starks yet again.  Plus, if he even hints at regressing towards being 2015’s “Fattie” Lacy there is no telling how low his floor truly is.

If it comes down to it in the late 2nd or early 3rd round of your fantasy draft, take McCoy, no hesitation.  He’s going to pay some major fantasy dividends to his owners this year.  Make sure you’re one of them.

 

Eddie Lacy

John Holton (@holtoncaulfield)

The Winter Soldier

It was week seven of the 2014 season and Eddie Lacy owners had no idea what to expect. Up to that point Lacy had posted middling fantasy stat lines, with four games below seven points and just one over twelve. That one good line came in week five when Lacy ran for over 100 yards and punched in two TDs. That brought some hope to those who rostered him. Yet one week later he had just four fantasy points.

If you owned Lacy during this time you probably had no idea what to do. Maybe you shopped him around to other owners, maybe you even managed to trade him away. But if you were one of the owners who stayed aboard the Lacy train then you were in for quite the ride. Over the final nine games of the regular season the running back would score 11 TDs and average almost 20 PPG. Lacy’s critics were silenced. His fans insisted that Eddie (who was known to pack on a few extra pounds) had been reinvigorated by the coming of winter weather.

 

Winter Never Came

So it was only logical that before the start of the 2015 season Lacy was being taken in the first round, in many cases within the first three picks. Those few managers who were still anti-Lacy were quick to point out the noticeable weight gain the running back had undergone.  However, memories of last season were still fresh in the minds of most, and Lacy remained a consensus top pick.

For anyone who burned their first rounder on him, the season was a roller coaster ride to say the least. He started with an impressive 15.9 line against Chicago in his first game. Then Lacy ran straight into the Seahawks run defense in game two, giving fantasy owners just 0.9 points. While some began to worry, most owners insisted that this would end up being an outlier. Even the best RBs struggled to surmount to much against such a great run D.

Sadly the rest of the season would go back and forth between what we saw week one and week two. While Lacy would occasionally post some solid points, it was just never possible to tell when that would happen. In week 12 he had 19.9 points (once again while playing the Bears), after which many started him confidently. He rewarded those managers with a whopping 0.1 points. This of course was during the final week of the fantasy regular season when many were trying to make the playoffs.

Yet right up until the end there were still some insisting that Lacy would turn it on at any time. His weight was not inhibiting him they insisted. It would only insulate his body once cold weather finally rolled in. Yet that long awaited winter never came, and many, including myself were left wondering exactly where it all went wrong.

 

Shreddie Lacy

So with all of that in mind, it may seem strange that I’m here arguing in favor of Eddie Lacy as a viable fantasy option for this upcoming season. Yet here we are with Lacy sitting somewhere around the second to third round. Many owners are still willing to take the leap. So what’s different?

You shouldn’t be looking at Lacy because things are different, but rather because things have returned to normal. I’m talking of course about the Packers offense, which as we all know was not itself last season. After losing WR Jordy Nelson in the preseason, the offense failed to adapt much to the annoyance of fantasy owners. Whether it was Aaron Rodgers, Randall Cobb, or Davante Adams on your roster, it would be hard to say that they gave you the production you were expecting when you drafted them. Lacy didn’t exactly do as well as he could have, but the stagnant offense didn’t help him much either.

Well now Jordy is back and all signs point to the offense clicking in the way we’re all used to seeing it. This can only be good news for Eddie Lacy. A better overall offense means better field position for the running back and more time in the red zone. I predict that his TD production should return to 2014 levels after a disheartening slump last year.

Another thing that has returned to normal is Lacy’s weight. In fact it’s even better than normal with the running back looking downright slim, prompting some to nickname him ‘Shreddie Lacy’. Even with the improved offense in Green Bay, Lacy is going to need to put in a lot of work if he is going to return to form. However, I believe this commitment to getting back in shape shows that he is willing to do that work.

 

Knows No Bounds

All of this may have you reconsidering taking a look at Lacy, but you’re probably wondering just how good he can be. In my opinion he can be at least as good as he was two years ago, and possibly even better.

If I had to choose a floor for Lacy I’d still have to be somewhat conservative, only because of how badly he burned so many of us last year. However, even being conservative I’d say his floor is about 1,000 yards rushing with another 200 through the air, in addition to 10 total TDs, seven rushing and three receiving.

That being said I believe his ceiling for this season sits above his stat line in 2014. I’d wager it could be as high as 1,400 yards on the ground with another 400 from receptions, and 17 TDs total, between rushing and receiving. Keep in mind this is the absolute best I think he can do, so don’t draft Lacy expecting these stats to be a guarantee.

All in all Lacy has the potential to be a top five running back on the season, but you’re probably still worried about using a super high draft pick on him. Well the good news is that you won’t have to. Currently Lacy is about the  eleventh RB off the board based on ESPN’s ADP. That means you can probably get him as late as the beginning of the third round. I really believe this is great value for a player with as much potential as Lacy. If you do choose to pull the trigger it won’t be a pick you’ll regret.

He’s married to his beautiful wife, Kelsey. Purdue University Class of 2011. Boiler Up! Lives in Nashville, TN. Titans fan (sympathetic gifts accepted). Works on music row by day. Writes about fantasy football by night. He plays club ultimate frisbee because it’s awesome. He longboards to work because he can. Find him on Twitter @FF_TravisM.

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