HOLY CRAP! Is this really happening? Is this a joke? OMG! OMG! What is Chip Kelly doing? What is Rex Ryan doing? Where am I? Why are my pants wet?
On the eve of the 11-year anniversary of one of the biggest trades in NFL history where the Redskins traded Champ Bailey to the Broncos for Clinton Portis, the Eagles and Bills have reportedly pulled off an equally eye-popping blockbuster. The Eagles are sending LeSean McCoy (the face of their franchise) to the Buffalo Bills for linebacker Kiko Alonso who played for Chip Kelly at Oregon.
Obviously the biggest fantasy impact will be to LeSean McCoy. He has been a PPR monster since taking over for Brian Westbrook in Philadelphia. Up until last season, he was as safe and consistent as any running back in the league. Even in games when his rushing totals weren’t all that great, his receptions and touchdowns always kept him from producing a stinker. For some reason, Chip Kelly didn’t utilize McCoy in the passing game like he had been used in the past. Instead, Kelly opted to use Darren Sproles as the passing down specialist. For the first time since his rookie season, McCoy failed to score a receiving touchdown or catch 40 passes. His 155 receiving yards were barely half of his previous career low. In a year where there were only a handful of elite fantasy running backs, McCoy was considered a disappointment. He finished as the RB12 in PPR leagues thanks in large part to his 1,319 rushing yards. When you compare that season to his previous few, that was a disappointment.
Now he finds himself in Buffalo with Rex Ryan who prides himself on a strong run game and a hard-nosed defense. He immediately becomes the starter and takes over lead back duties from the ageless Fred Jackson. The knee jerk reaction will be to assume McCoy takes a step back. I don’t think he will. The Jets weren’t a good football team last season, but Ryan still led them to the third ranked rushing attack. With a shaky starting quarterback in E.J. Manuel, the Bills are going to run, run, run. I’m not lowering McCoy in my rankings at all. I had him as my RB2 before the trade and I’m comfortable leaving him there. It does, however, throw a wrench into the value of Bryce Brown.
[inlinead]Who ends up benefitting the most in the Eagles backfield remains to be seen. Odds are the week one starter isn’t currently on the roster. Darren Sproles and Chris Polk currently sit atop the depth chart as part of a probable committee attack, but this draft class is deep at running back and the Eagles have options both in the draft and in free agency. Players like C.J. Spiller (who is almost certainly not coming back to Buffalo now), DeMarco Murray and possibly Darren McFadden would make sense if they choose to go free agency over the draft, but all three of them have a well documented injury history.
I believe this trade comes down to coaching philosophy and confidence in their systems. Chip Kelly believes his system manufactures a running game more than a specific runner. Rex Ryan believes his 3-4 defense can do better with big bodied thumpers as opposed to quick and athletic run-and-chase types, especially ones coming off of ACL tears. When free agency opens, I expect David Harris to quickly re-join Ryan in Buffalo.
For Kiko Alonso and his IDP value, I couldn’t be more excited. Assuming he makes a full recovery from his torn ACL, he’ll form one of the best inside linebacker tandems in the NFL with Mychal Kendricks. Alonso was an absolute beast during his 2013 rookie campaign. Not only did he rack up a total of 155 tackles, he registered two sacks and intercepted four passes. His addition will also free up Kendricks to continue attacking from all angles. He’s a huge upgrade over DeMeco Ryans, who will probably be released while he recovers from a torn Achilles tendon.
After all the dust settles, this trade will benefit both franchises and I can’t wait to see what they do to complement these players. If the LeSean McCoy owner is flipping out over this trade, attack him in his moment of weakness. Even in a “down” year he was a RB1 in 12 team leagues and he’ll only be 27 when the season starts. There’s plenty of good football left in those legs.
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