LeSean McCoy was one of the top four running backs taken off the board in most 2017 NFL fantasy drafts. The general consensus was that he would be the entire Buffalo offense after the Sammy Watkins trade and Mike Gillislee’s departure to New England.
Week 1 seemed to cement that notion as McCoy ran for 110 yards and added 49 more through the air. But, when you’re the only player in town, defenses come gunning for you. When those defenses are good, they can make life miserable. Carolina and Denver did just that over the next two weeks, and things didn’t get much better against Atlanta or Cincinnati, either.
McCoy averaged a respectable 77 total yards per game over that stretch. Not an awful number for an RB2, but with no touchdowns to tack on, it was an awful NFL fantasy output for a first-round draft pick.
Tight end Charles Clay was becoming the focus of the offense and Jordan Matthews was getting into the flow before both went down with injuries just before Buffalo’s Week 6 bye. How would the offense adapt in Week 7?
They went back to the man who kept their offense churning along for years. LeSean McCoy racked up 122 total yards and his first two touchdowns of the season. His 22.4 fantasy points were second only to Ezekiel Elliott’s outstanding total. McCoy almost had a third touchdown, but he could not raise his hands fast enough to stop a Tyrod Taylor rocket in the end zone.
Does that mean McCoy is back? Is he again a must-start running back?
What to consider:
McCoy has arguably been a must-start running back all season. A running back of his caliber (and draft position) rarely sits on the bench. His 7.7 average fantasy points only lacked a touchdown to make him a top 15 back most weeks. He could have had those touchdowns with a little coaching or play-calling help.
Andre Holmes, Charles Clay, Mike Tolbert, and Tyrod Taylor each scored a touchdown from one-yard out over the first five games. McCoy is not exactly end-zone adverse. He is as good a goal-to-go runner as anyone else in the league. But he was off the field or used as a decoy four times.
McCoy has been used rather consistently at 20 or more touches per game. The game plan did not radically change coming out of the bye. Matthews was back in the lineup. Nick O’Leary ran all of Charles Clay’s patterns. The biggest difference was that McCoy got into the end zone. He also averaged four-plus yards per carry for the first time since opening day.
Will that continue?
All of this indicates that McCoy has become somewhat matchup dependent. But there are two types of matchup dependent runners. There are those who will do okay most weeks and have a chance to have a better day against weaker opponents. Then there are those who are always expected to have a better day, but could be affected by a good defense, while offering a tremendous ceiling against weaker opponents. McCoy is the second type.
So, the fact he faces the weakest slate of NFL fantasy running back defenses from Week 8 onward bodes well for McCoy’s future fantasy production. Buffalo’s new manager and coaches show no signs of lessening McCoy’s contribution to their offense. He is on track to rush the ball as much as last season, while challenging his career-best 78 receptions, too.
Then you’re saying…
LeSean McCoy is absolutely a must-start every week for the rest of the NFL fantasy season. It is likely his output will only grow as the weather in Buffalo turns harsher. Play him this week with confidence against Oakland.
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