- Dan Graziano, ESPN Staff Writer
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So yeah, I'm reading this Insider post from Matt Williamson forecasting the top 10 NFL running backs for the 2016 season, and I was a little startled to see the name of the Philadelphia Eagles' LeSean McCoy at No. 2, behind only Cleveland Browns monster Trent Richardson. McCoy, after all, has played four full NFL seasons already at running back, and you wouldn't imagine a veteran with that kind of resume would be a candidate for a list like this based three years in the future. Everyone else in Matt's top seven is either a rookie or a second-year back. The only back in Matt's top 10 with more NFL service time than McCoy is Kansas City's Jamaal Charles at No. 10.
This served to remind me of a fact that startles me every time I encounter it: LeSean McCoy is not yet 25 years old. His 25th birthday is July 12. He's only six months older than Tampa Bay's Doug Martin, who's No. 3 on this list and was a rookie last year. He's almost a full year younger than Buffalo's C.J. Spiller, and he's a year and a half younger than Charles.
None of this is to say McCoy is a sure bet to outlast any of these guys. Charles and Spiller haven't been full-time starters for their entire careers. Running back is a position that wears you down, and McCoy has been a bell-cow guy, averaging 14.4 carries per game for his career (16.19 since his rookie season) as compared to Charles' 12.06 or Spiller's 8.43. Martin averaged 19.94 in 2012, but again... only one year in the league.
No, the point is that as brilliant as McCoy has been, it's incredible to imagine what's still possible for him, considering he's still only 24 as I write this. When we watch McCoy run, we see him do things other backs can't do in terms of vision and speed and shiftiness. Add to the fact that players his age aren't generally as good as they will eventually be, and you can start forecasting levels of brilliance for McCoy that boggle the mind. He missed time last year due to injury, and the popular perception of him has been bogged down somewhat in the argument about the extent to which Andy Reid did or did not use him. But with Chip Kelly now coaching in Philadelphia, I believe the offense is going to be heavily based on the run game. And with a weapon like McCoy, with as much as he likely still has left in the tank at this point in his career, why wouldn't it be?