Advice

Early Round Landmines – LeSean McCoy

The early rounds of 2017 MFL10 drafts are a chilling place to be. The dread begins to creep in late in the first round, once we leave the land of the elite eight, and doesn’t really ease up until the noose begins to loosen around round four.

The top eight seem set in stone.

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Fresh off the warm and fuzzy feeling of drafting a Mike Evans or Odell Beckham, things quickly deteriorate as the slow realization dawns that we have to spend a late-first or second-round pick choosing between a lot of guys with a lot of question marks.

A busted early-round pick can destroy your draft in a hurry. It’s an immense amount of capital, and getting it right is crucial. I predict picking your way through these potential early-round landmines will lead to a a lot of lost sleep this summer. Or is that just me?

I’m going to take a look at a number of players the first few rounds who cause me cold sweats, and I’ll attempt to answer the question – is the fear justified?

First up, LeSean McCoy.

GUESS WHO’S BACK?

Shady had a monster 2016, piling up more than 1,600 all-purpose yards and 14 total TDs, while averaging an impressive 5.4 yards per carry. He finished as the RB4 in PPR leagues, and that is right where he is being drafted this year – in the RB4-6 range alongside Melvin Gordon and Devonta Freeman.

It’s easy to forget that heading into last season, McCoy was coming off two down years (by his standards) where he averaged 4.2 and 4.4 yards per carry respectively and scored just five TDs in each of those seasons.

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With his YPC on the decline, and coming off his worst rushing total since his rookie year, McCoy’s market became bearish in 2016, with his ADP falling all the way to the third round, presenting drafters with immense value. 

Now heading into his age-29 season, can we be so sure that McCoy will maintain his top-six RB status? So certain that we are willing to spend a late first or early second-round pick on him?

To get a better grasp of what we can expect from McCoy in 2017, I set the RotoViz Screener to find all RBs since 2008 who cracked 1,000 yards rushing in their age-28 season, as McCoy just did. The screener allows us to see what those RBs did the following season. These stats are found in the columns marked N1.

1,000 chart

The first thing that jumps out is that Shady had an immensely efficient age-28 season, second only to Derrick Ward in terms of yards per carry.

Other Observations:

  • The immortal Frank Gore was the only one of the group to surpass his age-28 totals the next year, doing it by just three yards.
  • Just five of the 14 backs hit the 1,000-yard mark the next season.
  • The average seasonal rushing total for these age-28 backs was 1,164. The next year they averaged 650 yards – a stunning drop. Of course, some of those follow-up seasons were lost to injury and/or having Ezekiel Elliot drafted in front of you. While McCoy has remained relatively healthy throughout his career, he is not immune to injury, so we should be accounting for at least some injury risk in his ADP.
  • Even if we take out all the backs who, for whatever reason, didn’t make it to 500 yards the next season (half of them!), we still see a drop in production and efficiency. The seven remaining backs averaged 1,188 yards rushing in their age-28 season and 1,042 the next year.
  • The drop is much more marked in efficiency, however; the group averaged 4.4 yards per carry in their 1,000-yard campaigns; the following year that mark fell to 3.9 yards per carry.

If he can stay healthy, I think there is a good chance that McCoy can be among the group that put up similar production in their age-29 season, although I don’t think it is reasonable to expect him to put up 5.4 yards per carry again.

IN TYROD WE TRUST

Shady must surely have been been shaking his head when it looked for a time like the Buffalo Bills were actually considering not retaining the services of Tyrod Taylor. He should be grateful that Bills brass came to their senses and kept their QB, as it allows McCoy to continue his remarkable run of getting to play with mobile QBs.

McCoy went from Donovan McNabb, to Michael Vick, to Tyrod Taylor. For the majority of his career, he has benefited from opposing defenses having to account for a QB that can take off at any time. And the numbers would appear to show that it is more than just a narrative. The “In Split” is from games where Taylor, McNabb and Vick played, versus all other games played with any other QBs.

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There are some interesting findings here, but the bottom line for me is that he averages nearly two fantasy points more per game in PPR when playing with dual-threat QBs than he does with the likes of Nick Foles and E.J. Manuel… Which sounds rather obvious, once read aloud.

Whatever the case, Taylor is back for 2017, and that continuity with his QB can only be a positive.  

PLAYING THE DRAFT

The RotoViz Best Ball ADP app currently has McCoy’s ADP at 12th, but he is often being taken with the ninth pick – the first player to go after the big eight. He is being drafted in among a very tight-knit tier including Devonta Freeman, Melvin Gordon, and Jordan Howard.

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It is interesting see that this RB group has created a bit of separation from Allen Robinson and DeAndre Hopkins, wide receivers who were first-round staples in 2016 drafts who are now available late in the second round. If you are still a Zero RB zealot, this is fantastic news.

Drafters appear willing to take extraordinary risks with their early-round draft capital in 2017. As Josh Hermsmeyer has shown, RBs are far more likely to be seriously injured than WRs. People watched high-scoring backs win titles last year, while watching Allen Robinson struggle for consistency in a bad offense and Keenan Allen lasting less than one half of football. Perhaps drafters know the risks involved, but are desperate to land a “sure thing” at a position with so much volatility. Or perhaps they are convinced after last year that drafting WRs early is just as risky as drafting an RB early; Josh Hermsmeyer and his fancy stats be damned. 

If you believe that McCoy can repeat his 2016 season, you had better be sure, because it will cost you – probably as much as a first-round pick.

CONCLUSION

At a first-round bounty, a lot of things will need to go right for LeSean McCoy to return value in 2017. If all those things happen, he can be the RB4 again. 

But are you willing to wager a first rounder, or early second, on all those things happening? I’m not.

That said, if healthy, McCoy’s usage in the passing game makes his floor very safe, and even if his rushing numbers fall off, he should remain in the RB1 conversation. 

This is the part of the article where I would give you a list of guys I would rather draft in the 1.09 – 2.03 slots, but most of those guys scare me too. 1 The early rounds look littered with landmines. That’s the point of this series, and we’ll be taking a closer look at some of those guys as well.

If you are determined to go Hyper Fragile/Robust RB in drafts by loading up on RBs early and hoping for good health, I like McCoy much better than the other RBs going around him such as Melvin Gordon.

But at those prices, I will instead be looking to land the elite WR talent that is falling as a result of the 2016 RB Renaissance.

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  1. For the record, I am taking Dez Bryant and T.Y. Hilton, and maybe even Michael Thomas, ahead of McCoy.  (back)
By Cort Smith | @cortnall | Archive

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