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Tuesday, September 17, 2013
Updated: September 18, 2:25 PM ET
Consistency Ratings: Week 3

By Tristan H. Cockcroft
ESPN.com

It's not often that a 20-carry dropoff from one week to the next can be characterized a positive.

It's the truth with LeSean McCoy, who toted the rock 31 times in Week 1 but only 11 in Week 2, and also saw his total number of touches drop, from 32 to 16. Despite that, McCoy's fantasy total remained within range -- he scored 24 in Week 1 and 16 in Week 2 -- so this week his owners will be far less panicked, worried that a hefty workload might result in a physical breakdown.

Through two weeks, McCoy is the lone player to be a perfect 2-for-2 in "Stud" performances (per the definitions set forth in this space). It continued a trend he had exhibited before suffering a concussion in Week 11 of last season, an injury that cost him four weeks; he has been a fantasy "Start" in 80.0 percent of Philadelphia Eagles games since becoming their full-time starter to begin 2010, and a fantasy "Stud" 14 times, third-most among running backs.

Yes, Chip Kelly's offense is paying immediate dividends, particularly for McCoy, though any chatter exiting Week 1 that it'd wear on the running back seems to have rightfully cooled since. McCoy has played 67 of 83 offensive snaps (Week 1) and 49 of 59 (Week 2) in two weeks, per ESPN Stats & Information, he's the clear primary back with Bryce Brown (16 of 83 and 11 of 59) around to provide him a breather rather than to serve in a committee, and he's an even more attractive fantasy asset in this quick-paced, dynamic offense thanks to his combination of running and receiving skills ...

... and it's nothing that followers of our weekly Consistency Ratings didn't know.

If we forgive McCoy his six absences since the beginning of 2010 -- reasonable considering he's 25 years old and, again, four of those were due to the concussion -- he's actually the most reliable (read: consistently productive) back in the game, the least worrisome back in the health department (Arian Foster's back issues push him behind) and arguably the second-most valuable to Adrian Peterson, who actually has a lower Consistency Rating since 2010. Let's break down McCoy's history to illustrate.

These are McCoy's fantasy/Consistency Ratings statistics since the beginning of 2010 -- his first as a full-time starter -- broken down by his opponents' fantasy points per game allowed to running backs. These are separated by groups of eight; that divides the league into percentiles of 25 each.

Worst 8 D's: 7 G, 6 "Start" (86 percent), 3 "Stud" (43), avg. 17.4 FPTS.
Next 8 (9-16): 15 G, 15 "Start" (100 percent), 5 "Stud" (33), avg. 14.7 FPTS.
Next 8 (17-24): 12 G, 10 "Start" (83 percent), 3 "Stud" (25), avg. 14.1 FPTS.
Best 8 D's: 10 G, 9 "Start" (90 percent), 3 "Stud" (38), avg. 13.9 FPTS.

Now remember, Consistency Ratings dock a player for missed time, so McCoy's six absences ("Sat," in the chart below) aren't accounted above. Had he played in those six games, he'd have faced one top-8, two 9-16 and three 17-24 defenses. To be fair, McCoy sat out Week 17 twice (in 2010 and 2011), weeks that don't count in the standings for a large number of fantasy leagues.

From a pure analysis standpoint, McCoy is the greatest benefactor in Kelly's offense for another important reason: His team's awful defense. The Eagles shouldn't enjoy many blowouts, meaning 31-carry instances such as his Week 1 won't be a regular thing; he's also that good a pass-catcher that even when his team trails, his importance to the offense won't be affected.

That said, it seems that fantasy owners are most excited about the Eagles' quarterback, Michael Vick, after the first two weeks. It's understandable, after he managed back-to-back 25-point fantasy weeks, as well as set a new personal best with 428 passing yards.

Vick's history isn't as encouraging as McCoy's, especially if you consider that in Kelly's offense, which has utilized substantially more zone reads than Andy Reid's 2012 squad, he's more susceptible to taking hits. Since the beginning of 2010, Vick has been a fantasy "Start" in only 25 of 50 Eagles games (50.0 percent Consistency Rating), a "Stud" in 7 and a "Stiff" in 6. He has also missed 13 games due to injury during that time span.

Breaking down Vick's performance based upon strength of matchup also reveals a history of beating up on the weak. Again, these are separated into groups of eight, dividing the league into percentiles of 25.

Worst 8 D's: 8 G, 7 "Start" (88 percent), 4 "Stud" (50), avg. 25.9 FPTS.
Next 8 (9-16): 15 G, 10 "Start" (67 percent), 3 "Stud" (20), avg. 19.2 FPTS.
Next 8 (17-24): 7 G, 3 "Start" (43 percent), 0 "Stud" (0), avg. 13.3 FPTS.
Best 8 D's: 7 G, 5 "Start" (71 percent), 0 "Stud" (0), avg. 18.9 FPTS.

As this column has shown over the years, Vick's strength in fantasy is hardly consistency; he's actually one of the most volatile scorers in the game. On a team whose defense might constantly put him in a hole and force him to throw, Vick certainly possesses the potential to win your week, as he did in Week 2 ...

... but, again, followers of the weekly Consistency Ratings knew that.

Ah, but if the upshot of all this is that Vick warrants shopping in fantasy leagues right now due to his injury history, while McCoy is worth targeting in trade, owners might have a pertinent follow-up question: What happens to McCoy in the event Vick is sidelined for future games?

Good question, and here's your answer, again using Consistency Ratings data (since the beginning of 2010) to illustrate the impact:

Vick played: 36 G, 32 "Start" (89 percent), 12 "Stud" (33 percent), avg. 15.3 FPTS.
Vick sat: 8 G, 8 "Start" (100 percent), 2 "Stud" (25 percent), avg. 12.8 FPTS.

In other words, should Nick Foles or Matt Barkley be pressed into service, McCoy's production might decline slightly, to the point where he's no longer as likely to register a week's top fantasy running back score. That said, it wouldn't greatly diminish his value, considering he might take on an expanded role, not to mention there wouldn't be wholesale offensive scheme changes.