Ed Barkowitz: Eagles running back LeSean McCoy now among the fantasy elite

Posted: September 07, 2012

LeSEAN McCOY was a top-five pick in just about every fantasy league draft. It's dangerous to use absolutes, so we can't say he was top-five everywhere. But the only leagues McCoy wasn't one of the first five players taken likely reward excellent punters and tackles on special teams.

Trying to gauge the historical context of McCoy's fantasy value is difficult, but not impossible. He's the most sought after Eagle since fantasy football rocketed in popularity in the 1990s.

"The only player I can think of who might have been in that area in terms of overall players [at least in recent years] is Brian Westbrook," said Michael Fabiano, Fantasy Analyst for NFL.com. "He was one of the top five RBs in fantasy football for years, and that's when running backs were the kings of fantasy football [think 2007-2008]."

That's top five running backs. Not necessarily top five overall.

McCoy, entering his fourth season, set the Eagles record last year for rushing touchdowns (17) and total touchdowns (20), to go along with his 1,309 rushing yards. He was fourth in the league in touches (321) and fourth among the stud running backs, with 48 catches. Remarkable numbers, especially considering McCoy missed the final game of the regular season with an ankle injury.

"LeSean definitely has what it takes to be a really great player," said DeMeco Ryans, a former teammate of Arian Foster, the consensus No. 1 fantasy pick this year. "LeSean has the moves, the ability to make people miss, and he can run in between the tackles."

Ryans said the two running backs are similar. McCoy, at 24, is 2 years younger.

"Both Arian and LeSean are smooth runners," Ryans said. "Arian is kind of deceiving with his speed, but you know right off the bat that LeSean is very fast. They both have the ability to hit home runs."

Andy Reid kept four running backs on the roster, including a pair of rookies with oodles of talent, so don't be surprised if McCoy is on a touch count in 2012.

"They'll have some roles this year," McCoy said. "I remember Andy, at the beginning of the year, said he was going to cut some of my reps down because I had so many [last year]."

The periodical breathers will only enhance McCoy's value to the Eagles, and in fantasy. Although he was a touchdown monster all season, in his final five games, McCoy averaged only 58 yards rushing and 3.4 yards per attempt. He declined to narrow down any individual goals for 2012.

"I really want to get back to the Pro Bowl," McCoy said. "I think that's big: to stay consistent. Some of the better backs in this league are graded on how consistently they play. I definitely want to go back to the Pro Bowl, maybe make All-Pro again. It's something that's big to me. It really is."

If he goes to the Pro Bowl, he won't be playing in the Super Bowl, but you get his point. And who knows? Twenty more touchdowns and maybe next year he'll supplant Foster.

Triviality

Name the nine quarterbacks selected No. 1 overall who are starting for NFL teams in Week 1. Hint: Six play for NFC teams.

Position watch

Quarterbacks: Don't necessarily dismiss Arizona's John Skelton, who should be on the waiver wire in most leagues. Skelton was 5-2 as a starter last year and (obviously) has a top-three receiver in Larry Fitzgerald. The Cards start with three rough games (Seattle, at New England, Eagles), so just keep him on the radar for now . . . Amazingly, 28-year-old Browns rookie Brandon Weeden is older than Aaron Rodgers (28), Joe Flacco (27) and Matt Ryan (27).

Running backs: The Jacksonville-Minnesota game could have featured Maurice Jones-Drew vs. Adrian Peterson, but neither is worth starting this week. Jacksonville backup Rashad Jennings and his counterpart, Toby Gerhart, each deserve consideration as an RB3 or flex option. Ideally, one or both has a decent game and becomes instant trade bait . . . Seahawks rookie backup Robert Turbin will get a temporary boost in value if Marshawn Lynch (back) is limited. Turbin should be stashed.

Wide receivers: Tennessee rookie Kendall Wright has been a hot commodity and will start Sunday against New England . . . Indy's Austin Collie (concussions) has put any retirement speculation to rest for now and will start against Chicago. While it's difficult to rely on him for more than WR3 duties, Collie could be worth a pickup-and-trade for those stocked at receiver, but lacking elsewhere.

Answer, please

The nine quarterbacks selected No. 1 overall starting this week are: Michael Vick, Eagles; Sam Bradford, Rams; Andrew Luck, Colts; Eli Manning, Giants; Peyton Manning, Broncos; Cam Newton, Panthers; Carson Palmer, Raiders; Alex Smith, 49ers; Matthew Stafford, Lions.

Fantasy island

CAN TOUCH THIS

A look at the eight running backs with at least 300 touches last season.

2012

TouchesTDsAge

Maurice Jones-Drew, 386 touches, 11 touchdowns, 27 years old

Ray Rice, 367, 16, 25

Arian Foster, 331, 12, 26

LeSean McCoy, 321, 20, 24

Chris Johnson, 319, 4, 26

Michael Turner, 318, 11, 30

Marshawn Lynch, 313, 13, 26

Steven Jackson, 302, 6, 29

Notes: Johnson turns 27 on Sept. 23 . . . Rice's TDs include one he had passing the ball.

AVERAGE DRAFT POSITIONS

Where top players were selected in leagues run by NFL.com, as of Wednesday:

Arian Foster, RB: 1.62

Aaron Rodgers, QB: 2.17

Ray Rice, RB: 3.85

Tom Brady, QB: 5.03

LeSean McCoy, RB: 5.20

Drew Brees, QB: 6.20

Also Avg. Round in parentheses

Michael Vick, QB (4th): 37.35

Jeremy Maclin, WR (7th): 64.27

DeSean Jackson, WR (7th): 67.43

Eagles defense/sp. teams (12th): 117.54

Brent Celek, TE (15th): 141.49

Alex Henery, K (15th): 146.46

Jason Avant, WR (16th): 150.69

Nick Foles, QB (16th): 150.80

FROM THURSDAY'S CHAT

Kevin: How do you think the holdout will affect Maurice Jones-Drew and Mike Wallace? I have both and want some good news!

Matt Mullin: I think MJD may have a slow start, at least for the first 2 or so weeks, but I think he will eventually be fine. Maybe not a top 3 RB, but certainly a top 10 guy. Wallace should be fine. I don't think sitting out affects the WRs as much as the RB, at least when it comes to physical conditioning.

Guest: I think I was drunk during my draft and selected T. Romo, D. Murray, and D. Bryant, which are all in my starting lineup. [Wednesday] night was good to me with these three, however, can I survive all season?

Matt Mullin: You can survive in fantasy, but you may struggle in real life. By the end of the season, you will be full-on rooting for the Cowboys. Will you be able to live with yourself?

Laurent Robinson: Remind me why I left Dallas? Is Kevin Ogletree really my replacement or is he a 1-week wonder who took advantage of the Giants' weak secondary?

Matt Mullin: He'll get favorable matchups with opposing secondaries keying on Austin, Bryant, and Witten, but I expect Wednesday night's game to be more of the exception than the rule.

Kyle: Who should I start in my W/R Jeremy Maclin, Vincent Jackson, or Doug Martin?

Matt Mullin: I really like Maclin this season. REALLY like him. But I would have to give the nod to Jackson in Week 1. If that's for your flex spot, you must be stacked at WR.

Look for the fantasy chat each Thursday at noon. at philly.com. For a full transcript of this week's chat, visit philly.com/fantasychat.

--

Ed Barkowitz, who avoided Maurice Jones-Drew like a glass of milk sitting out in the sun, has been writing about fantasy football since 2001. Contact him at barkowe@phillynews.com.

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