LeSean McCoy is 26 and in his prime. He led the NFL in yards from scrimmage last season, piling up 2,146. He averaged 5.11 yards per carry, and scored 11 total touchdowns.
So how in the wild blue yonder is he currently the owner of a 2.74 YPC? The man so shifty he’s known as “Shady” has managed 39 yards over his past 29 totes. That’s a 1.34 clip, which would make Jackie Battle blush. The Eagles’ line has been blown apart by injuries, but is that really enough of an explanation? Coach Chip Kelly thinks it is. “We’re not very good up front right now,” Kelly said of his superstar’s struggles. “We’ve got a lot of guys banged up. That’s not an excuse, it’s just the reality.”
That’s not a satisfying answer, especially if you selected McCoy with the No. 1 overall pick of your fantasy draft. But do you have a better explanation? Has McCoy simply forgotten how to play football? Is he now destined for a Life of Richardson? We know that’s not true.
But just because we’ve plainly diagnosed the reason for McCoy’s struggles doesn’t mean they’re going away. RT Lane Johnson (suspension) will be back for Week 5, but C Jason Kelce (hernia surgery) is out another 5-7 weeks, while LG Evan Mathis (sprained MCL) won’t be back until Week 10. Those are not your run-of-the-mill voids. Kelce was Pro Football Focus’ top-rated center in 2013, while Mathis has been the No. 1 guard three years running. Adequate replacements are not walking through that door.
Now that we’ve seen McCoy’s truly prodigious natural athleticism isn’t enough to overcome the Eagles’ line issues on its own, we have to be realistic. This is still a player who could finish as an RB1, but RB1 — or probably even RB5 — overall is out the window. McCoy does have a juicy Week 5 matchup in the Rams, but the Rams could say the same thing about the Eagles’ offensive line. 2014 is going to be a struggle for fantasy’s preseason No. 1 overall player. There’s no two ways about it. The sooner you adjust your expectations, the better for your sanity.
Editor’s Note: Rotoworld’s partner FanDuel is hosting a one-week $350,000 Fantasy Football league for Week 5’s games. It’s only $10 to join and first prize is $30,000. Starts Sunday, October 5th at 1pm ET. Here’s the link.
Five Things That Went According To Plan In Week 4
Jerick McKinnon’s production with a bigger workload. All he needed was a chance. Absurdly limited to eight touches through the Vikings’ first two Adrian Peterson-less games, McKinnon exploded for 152 yards on 19 touches against the Falcons, averaging 7.5 yards per carry while managing more yards from scrimmage than all but three backs in Week 4. That’s despite getting the rock four fewer times than starter Matt Asiata. McKinnon is going to remain boom-or-bust going forward, but Sunday ensures he’ll get a weekly chance to boom after the Vikings spent Weeks 2-3 focusing on what McKinnon can’t do instead of what he can do. He needs to be 100 percent owned in 12-team leagues.
Keenan Allen’s bounce-back. Something you may not remember about Allen’s rookie year? He had three catches for 30 yards through his first three games. That, of course, has no bearing on 2014. Allen was a rookie learning the game in 2013, and is now a No. 1 receiver with big expectations. But it’s a reminder that football seasons are long. Anyone can have a three-week slump, or in Allen’s case, start off the year doing battle with two of the league’s top corners. More often than not, Allen is going to be a major factor.
Charlie Whitehurst’s struggles in place of Jake Locker. Whitehurst is famous for two things: Each of his nicknames. “Checkdown Charlie” and “Clipboard Jesus.” The latter because he’s a bearded career backup. The former because any time he’s gotten on the field, he’s relentlessly dumped the ball off instead of throwing it downfield. That was on full display Sunday, where TE Delanie Walker and slot man Kendall Wright combined for 15 of Whitehurst’s 27 targets. Whitehurst is an aggressively bad player, albeit one the Titans aggressively pursued because he had experience playing for coach Ken Whisenhunt. That experience is going to hamstring the Titans for however long Jake Locker (wrist) is injured or ineffective. Rookie third-stringer Zach Mettenberger’s time might not be far away.
The increased competence of the Bucs’ offense with Mike Glennon under center. Tampa didn’t exactly reinvent the wheel in Sunday’s upset win over the Steelers, but it did get it spinning again. Glennon stood and delivered, literally standing tall in the pocket in the face of pressure while peppering towering wideouts Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans with targets. The Bucs generated 350 yards of offense, 79 more than they averaged in Weeks 1-3. Regardless of Josh McCown’s health, Glennon should be in the driver’s seat to stay.
Dolphins coach Joe Philbin’s “motivation” of Ryan Tannehill. It doesn’t matter if Philbin was actually trying to motivate Tannehill or not. He did, and for one week at least, Tannehill was back on the QB2 radar. Of course, the defense he ravaged is one of the worst in recent memory, while the “road” game took place in Wembley Stadium. Tannehill also missed a few easy throws despite completing 23-of-31 passes. But that’s just nitpicking after Tannehill had his first truly effective start of the season. The challenge will be following it up in Week 6 against the Packers when the Dolphins come off their bye.
Five Things That Didn’t Go According To Plan In Week 4
The Saints exorcising their road demons against the Cowboys’ shaky defense. We long ago accepted that the Saints aren’t the same show away from the friendly confines of the Superdome. But 0-3 against the Falcons, Browns and Cowboys? That’s a concern, especially since their next three road jaunts are Detroit, Carolina and Pittsburgh. The good news is, a home matchup with the hapless Bucs will send the Saints into their Week 6 bye, while seven of their final 12 games come in New Orleans. The Saints are still the favorites in a depressed NFC South, but it’s shaping up as a much-tougher battle than expected.
Carolina’s release of Steve Smith Sr. The Panthers went out of their way to characterize Smith’s March release as a “football decision.” “He doesn’t have the top-end speed like he used to,” coach Ron Rivera said in the spring, before adding that Smith needed to “tone down” his aggressive approach to practice. After dropping seven catches for 139 yards and two touchdowns on his former team Sunday, Smith Sr. is now on pace for 100/1,716/8. Although we’re obviously skeptical that Smith will keep up at that rate, this is a player who’s drawn 41 targets through four games. There’s little reason to expect the looks to stop coming Smith’s way, and as has been the case for his entire career, he’s going to know what to do with them.
Colin Kaepernick’s progression between the ears. One thing Kaepernick doesn’t get enough credit for is his lack of turnovers. Kaep has just 18 career giveaways. But his reputation as a quarterback who struggles with the finer aspects of the game continues to be well earned. No player has struggled more with clock management this season, while Kaep continues to take pre-snap penalties. He cost the 49ers a precious timeout on Sunday with a ludicrous fourth-quarter decision. Kaep has nearly supernatural physical ability, but his football IQ needs to catch up if he’s to take the next step, or rekindle the “Kaep or Russell Wilson?” debate.
Donald Brown’s demolition of the Jaguars. Brown’s expected volume in the absence of Ryan Mathews has materialized. He has 41 carries over the past two weeks. The problem? He’s turned them into just 81 yards (1.97), confirming that Dammit Donald is alive and well after a one-year hiatus. Now heading into a Week 5 matchup with the Jets’ league-best run defense, Brown is very much in danger of losing more work to rookie backup Branden Oliver. Brown’s RB2 moment in the sun has come and gone.
DeAngelo Williams’ reclamation of the Panthers’ backfield. D-Will had the Panthers’ running back corps all to himself on Sunday. He responded by spraining his ankle and missing the second half, further muddying an already absurdly-muddled situation for a Carolina team that desperately needs to get a viable run game going for dual-threat QB Cam Newton. With Jonathan Stewart (knee) likely to miss Week 5, the Panthers could be down to practice-squad talents Darrin Reaves and Tauren Poole against the Bears. It’s not a good situation.
1. Did the Raiders at least enjoy the in-flight movies?
2. Did Matt Asiata build Rome in a day?
3. Do the Bears know that the games in Chicago are more than just practice?
Early Waiver Look (Players owned in less than 50 percent of Yahoo leagues)
Stats of the Week
Antonio Brown is the first player in NFL history with at least five catches in 20 straight games. He’s also registered a minimum of 50 yards in each of those contests, and is currently on pace for a 116/1,708/20 line in 2014.
With 1,512 yards on the ground and 768 through the air, Le’Veon Bell is on pace for 2,280 yards from scrimmage. That would be 12th most all time.
There are still corners of the internet that doubt Andrew Luck’s franchise prowess. His first four games didn’t get the message, as he’s currently on pace for 5,220 yards and 52 touchdowns. Both averages will slacken, but it’s clear Luck is who we thought he was: A generational talent already capable of carrying an entire team on his back.
If it seems like reserve Falcons change-of-pace back Antone Smith is a big play waiting to happen, it’s because he is. Just ask former Rotoworlder Chris Wesseling. Smith is averaging 17.35 yards per touch over the past two seasons. Of course, he’s gotten the ball only 20 times. That’s probably something the Falcons should work on.
Most Absurd Moment of Week 4: Every Kirk Cousins pass attempt.
Quote of the Week: “That film was a coaching session,” Steve Smith Sr. said of his Week 4 performance against his former team. “I’m 35 years old, and I ran around them boys like they were schoolyard kids.”
When The Historians Look Back On This Week, They Will Say: No one was quite sure how he did it, but when they opened their scorebook, there it was, the flabbergasting fact: Matt Asiata had again scored three “touch downs,” more than any other player at his position for the week at hand. However vexing and perplexing, Asiata’s “touch down” scoring prowess made him a fantasy option for the ages.
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