It’s never too early to start thinking about the next fantasy football season, and you should be able to land several players at a bargain for you 2015 fantasy football draft.
Obviously these predictions can easily change with the trades and the 2015 NFL Draft, but as of right now, I am bullish on LeSean McCoy.
Currently, I am reading several books on financial investing and I started following a few stocks, and there is one piece of advice that I keep coming across that translates perfectly into the fantasy football market: Invest in a quality stock that is undervalued. Now you may be wondering why a strong stock would be undervalued, and that is a fair question. One of the biggest factors of a stock loosing value in the market is if the company does not hit projections. The company could have had a strong quarter and have seen an increase in profits, but if it didn’t hit the exact numbers it projected, that can cause panic, volatility and upset owners.
Obviously this advice seems simple enough, but you really need to do your homework and be prepared to go against a general consensus in order to find a true value.
Why Didn’t McCoy Reach Projections?
Think of McCoy’s 2014 performance as a company who didn’t hit its projections. In 2013, Shady McCoy was the second-highest scoring running back in standard scoring leagues, and he averaged an incredible 16.37 points per game. The 26-year old running back was a top-three pick in most fantasy formats this season, but he didn’t produce the value that his owners were looking for. Although Shady saw an incredible 19.8 carries per game this season, he has only averaged 9.86 points per game in 2014, and McCoy has scored 95 fewer points this year than he did last year through 15 games.
With that being said, McCoy is currently the 11th-highest scoring back in standard scoring leagues, and he is only six points away from being a top-10 back. Those obviously aren’t the numbers you were hoping for if Shady was your first pick, but that will help make him an extreme value in 2015.
So why didn’t McCoy reach his projections this season?
1. Addition of Darren Sproles
As you can tell from the graph below, McCoy’s value really suffered for owners because of his lack of involvement in the receiving game.
I didn’t think Darren Sproles would cut too much into McCoy’s rushing stats when Sproles joined the Philadelphia Eagles, and that has held true. What I didn’t plan on, however, was how involved the 31-year old back would be in the passing attack. Sitting on top of 364 receiving yards, Sproles reduced McCoy’s 425.40 career receiving average to 140 receiving yards in 2014, which translates to only 32% of his normal receiving yard totals each year. Obviously Sproles will start to slow down at some point, but he has a contract through 2017, and if he is used in a limited capacity that allows him to be fresh, his presence could continue to hurt McCoy.
That will scare most people, but here is what I am looking at: Even with Sproles taking away opportunities, McCoy was still only six points away from being a top-10 back. The former New Orleans Saints‘ running back will be 32 in June, and he isn’t owed a ton of money through the next few years. If injuries or age creep up on him, the Eagles could easily release Sproles. Despite taking a hit in his receiving totals, Shady still produced 1,220 rushing yards.
If his decrease in touchdowns is a concern, don’t be nervous.
I’m not worried about Sproles or Chris Polk stealing more rushing touchdown opportunities in 2015. Sproles and Polk combined for nine in the 2014 season.
Some analysts are stating that Polk and Sproles have overtaken McCoy as the goal-line back, but that simply is preposterous. Two of the three touchdowns from Polk came in one game, and the 5-foot-6, 190 pound-Sproles is not built to slam the ball up the middle. In fact, here are Sproles’ touchdown runs for the year: 49 yards, 19 yards, 15 yards, 8 yards, 4 yards and a 1 yard scamper. There generally has to be massive breakdowns for a running back to score touchdowns of 49, 19 and 15 yards, so if you remove those three, Sproles realistically may only have scored three touchdowns on the year. That is important to note if you plan on drafting him next season. When we look at McCoy’s touchdown runs, here is what we find: 1 yard, 1 yard, 2 yards, 38 yards and 11 yards. With 60% of McCoy’s touchdown runs shorter than five yards, he is still a major player to punch the ball in near the goal line.
2. Offensive Line Issues
It shouldn’t be a shocker that the Eagles struggled with injuries and inconsistencies with the offensive line this season. The loss against the 4-11 Washington Redskins could be a summary of the whole season, and NJ.com wrote a great article about how the Eagles just broke down in that game.
Here is what I am taking away for next season:
1. Left tackle Jason Peters not only played in all of the games this season, he also made his seventh Pro Bowl. He is signed through 2019, and Peters was one of the few consistencies the Eagles’ line could rely on.
2. Evan Mathis was Pro Football Focus’ top-ranked guard in the previous two seasons, but he went down with a sprained MCL in Week 1 against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Imagine how much more effective McCoy could would have been with Mathis in for the entire season.
3. Tackle Lane Johnson missed the first four games of the season due to a suspension because of performance enhancing drugs. He was the first pick for the Eagles in the 2013 NFL Draft.
4. Even with missing four games of his own, center Jason Kelce earned a Pro Bowl nod this season as well.
If all of those pieces can come back together to start the 2015 healthy, how could you not like McCoy?
While this isn’t the season fantasy football owners were hoping for McCoy, expectations were set too high before the season even started.
Even if you remove the injuries from the offensive line, it would have been almost impossible for McCoy to produce what his owners wanted. With his 1,606 rushing yards in 2013, McCoy is now ranked 51st for single season rushing yards, with records on the list dating back as far as 1947.
Anything is possible, but it is highly doubtful that McCoy could ever break his own record. He is one of the most talented players in the NFL, but McCoy wasn’t going to post those types of numbers again in 2014. Add the injuries to his offensive line back into the mix, and you are left with expectations that could have never possibly been reached.
If you use these projections to your advantage next year, however, McCoy is going to be a steal in your draft. Fantasy football owners are easily jaded and can make bad decisions based on emotions, which is a big no-no when investing in stocks. Leave your emotions at the door, and make decisions based on research and information.
I think the average fantasy football player will not draft McCoy until the end of the first round, or the start of the second in 2015. I reached this conclusion by using data from 2013. According to My Fantasy League, McCoy was generally the 10th pick in the first round of standard scoring, 12-man leagues. In 2012, McCoy was a top-five selection. Even with a history of success, what pushed McCoy back so far in 2013 drafts? Injuries and the perception of a lack of production. In 2012, McCoy was only involved in 12 games, and he rushed for 840 yards and only scored two rushing touchdowns. Those were the stats most fantasy players focused on, but those of you did your homework, however, knew McCoy was a bargain as the 10th pick.
As you can see from the chart above, McCoy’s rushing attempts not only increased by an average of 59 carries from 2009-2011, but he also increased his rushing yards by an average of 336 each season as well. Even though he finished the 2012 season with 840 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns, his average rushing and receiving yards per game total suggests that if he played 16 full games, Shady would have ended the season with 1,120 rushing yards and 497.6 receiving yards.
Ultimately, the best case scenario for myself would be to have the 12th pick of the draft, hope that McCoy goes undrafted when it is my turn to select, and grab him as my first pick in the second round. I can draft an elite wide receiver with my first pick, and have a stud running back as my second pick, forming a very strong core early on.
Aside from the reasons listed above, why else is McCoy a strong investment?
Health of the Company
One of the criteria investors use to judge a stock is the overall health of a company. We already examined the offensive line, but what about the team itself?
Looking at this through an investing angle, Chip Kelly is the CEO. In 2012, the Eagles were 4-12, and the team seemed absolutely lost. In one season, Kelly was able to turn things around and help the Eagles reach the first round of the playoffs. Kelly was able to get the best out of the talent at his disposal, and he has amassed a record of 19 wins, 12 losses and a playoff birth.
The players seem to like him, but more importantly, they buy into his philosophy. I’m not worried about the team being frustrated after certain losses, because it shows how much the players out of themselves. The management is strong, and will continue to produce.
The quarterback position is a little concerning, as Mark Sanchez currently has a 4-4 record as a starter, but most of his losses came when he faced quality teams. Nick Foles is 14-4 playing for Kelly, however, and his presence is an immediate upgrade over Sanchez. If he can get back into the lineup with a healthy offensive line, things should open up for McCoy.
The defenses within the NFC East have become rather stout, and the Washington Redskins rank 10th against the rush, and the Cowboys’ defense ranks 9th. McCoy will play 25% of his games against these teams next season, but that hasn’t affected his success in previous years. Shady torched the Redskins’ defense for an average of 130.5 rushing yards last year, and averaged 93 rushing yards against the Cowboys. With a healthy line, McCoy should have no trouble finding success next year.
Within his own organization, McCoy is still the lead back. Polk will be a free agent in 2015, and as stated before, Sproles will be 32 in June. McCoy has posted an average of 7.25 total touchdowns in the last four seasons, so those numbers suggest his 5 touchdowns through Week 16 is an outlier.
While I have listed plenty of reasons why McCoy should be a value next year, there is always the chance he performs below expectations next year. Just like in the stock market, no one can predict what is going to happen. You can use research, historical data and anything else you can get your hands to make the best educated guess possible, but on any given Sunday, anything can happen.
My staff writer Jon Sousa shares his opinion on McCoy for next season.
“I personally will never be drafting LeSean McCoy ever again. I took McCoy in the first round with the third pick in a 15-team, full PPR league. He was supposed to be the run-away leader in total yards for running backs this year, and with a talented offensive line already in place, it seemed like the safest bet in the world to me at the time. However, inconsistency has plagued McCoy the entire year, and even though he has turned it on as of late, he just didn’t do enough during the first half of the year to merit a first-round selection in my book. I will be fading away from Shady next year in the first round of my draft, and looking for a more reliable performer. McCoy has rushed for 1018 yards and four touchdowns with 23 receptions for 111 yards through Week 14.”
While I respect Jon’s opinions, this is exactly why I am keying in on McCoy for next season. I think the majority of the fantasy football community will share many of Jon’s sentiments, and while everyone else is moving away from McCoy, I will move towards him.
Winning fantasy football championships is about finding value, and for me, McCoy is a clear-cut value.
Are you high or low on McCoy for 2015? Let me now on Twitter.
Categories: Fantasy Football