The projections that come out of the Sim Score app for running backs tend to favor young, big, receiving threat running backs (with the young and receiving elements being the most important). The model likes those running backs because they tend to be fairly immune to year to year fluctuations in game scripts. If the running back is always on the field, then there’s little risk that their stats drop off because their team falls behind. The model has always liked LeSean McCoy because he came into the league pretty young and then has put up four consecutive seasons of at least 40 receptions. His peak was 78 receptions. But I think it’s possible that we might be overlooking some usage risk for him this year. What if RBs catching passes isn’t a huge part of the PHI offense?
To illustrate where my concern is coming from, here’s a table that shows targets to running backs in 2012 by offense. In bold are all of the teams that ran read option for at least part of the season last year.
I don’t really follow college football (outside of statsheet scouting) so I went back and looked for Chip Kelly’s running backs and whether they caught the ball a lot. Except for De’Anthony Thomas, who seems more like a WR/RB combo player, Kelly’s backs really didn’t catch the ball very much. They put up monster rushing yardage seasons, but that’s not really my issue here. I’m worried that if passes to the RB aren’t a big part of the offense and if the Eagles have to play from behind this year, McCoy’s receptions could be in trouble. I think that would in turn make him more sensitive to game scripts and that introduces risk.
I went and looked at the first preseason game just to see if PHI threw to the running backs and at least Chris Polk/Bryce Brown did combine for three catches. That dampened my concern a little but I’ll still be paying attention to the Eagles for the rest of the preseason. If I felt like they weren’t going to pass to the RB, then I would move McCoy down my rankings.