By Chris Lehman
Over the years, we’ve seen a plethora of great running backs. Just like every other position in the NFL, or sports in general, there are different types of each position. When you think of the ideal running back, there are certain qualities that they possess that make them great. You want them to have speed, good field vision, power, good hands and the ability to block. We’ve seen pure elusive runners such as Walter Payton and Barry Sanders. There have been dual threats (Great runners and receivers) like Marshall Faulk. Then we have big bruisers like Jerome Bettis. Every now and then, you find a guy who has a versatile skill set and that’s when you know you have found something truly special.
Currently in the NFL, we are seeing such an excess of offensive talent. It is arguable that there are more great quarterbacks in the league now than there ever were in a single point in time. At this point in the season, there are two quarterbacks (Brees and Brady) who are on pace to break Dan Mariono’s all-time yards-in-a-season record. Not to mention Rodgers who is fifteen yards off but shattering many other records.
But in this time of exceptional offensive talents, are we not appreciating what we are witnessing? Is it because we are ungrateful and just expect to see great players? Or is it that we just don’t realize how great today’s players are?
Look at the running backs in this case. If you ask most people who the top runners in the league are, there is usually a common list of the same ones. On every list, you’ll see names like Adrian Peterson, Chris Johnson and Arian Foster. Some include Maurice Jones-Drew or Steven Jackson. For the most part, those are the consensus picks.
But one player is always left off the list. I have never heard Lesean McCoy’s name mentioned with the rest of the top running backs in the league. Not once. That’s not okay!
McCoy is a difference maker in every game. He possesses many of the attributes listed above. McCoy is one of the fastest backs in the game. Once he gets in the open field, he’s gone. His cuts and quickness through those cuts are quicker than just about anyone’s. Comparable to those of Adrian Peterson. From what I’ve seen, he’s one of, if not THE best blocking running back in the league. On top of his running skills, he has the fourth most receptions of any running back this year. Just for the sake of my argument, I’ll point out that in the 2010 season, he had twelve more receptions than any other running back.
Most running backs who share a similar style as McCoy, that style being speedy and a good receiver, are not the best pure runners because they lack the ability to run up the middle. That is not the case with McCoy. Since taking over for Brian Westbrook in 2009, he has not looked back. Last year, only his second year in the league and his first as a full-season starter, he went over 1,000 yards rushing while averaging 5.2 yards per carry. This year, he looks even better as he has already amassed 1,000 yards with ten touchdowns on the ground and has increased his yards per carry to 5.4. He has been the most reliable running back this year as he has scored a touchdown in each of his games until the most recent one. In addition to his twelve touchdowns (tied for the league high) he also is leading the league in rushing yards.
With all of his success this early in his career, how is McCoy not considered one of the best in the league? I am in two fantasy leagues this year and in both, he fell to the second round. Last year he was a top five fantasy running back and this year he is the top fantasy back. But yet his name still is not included on the list of the best running backs. Not only that, but he isn’t even considered one of the top 100 players in the league. The NFL’s Top 100 Players of 2011 had ten running backs on it, none of them being McCoy.
Since he has been in the league, he has been nothing short of spectacular. Before he arrived, the Eagles were known to be a pass heavy team. While Westbrook wasn’t a traditional running back, he was still the biggest part of their offense. For years, he led the team in receptions and rushing yards. Westbrook was considered one of the better backs in the league. When McCoy took over, the Eagles didn’t miss a beat. Any time a rookie can step in for a local legend and the hometown fans, especially Philly fans, don’t notice a difference, you’re doing alright for yourself.
While I don’t expect people to say that he is the best running back in the league, which I wouldn’t mind arguing for his case, I don’t see any reason why he isn’t at least considered one of the best. What do any other runners have that he doesn’t? Perhaps people simply are unaware of his existence. Maybe it’s possible that playing six yards behind Michael Vick puts him in a shadow. Maybe that’s why they call him Shady McCoy.