Eagles running back LeSean McCoy isn't the most physically imposing runner in the NFL, not by a long shot. But no team asked more out of their starting running back last season than the Eagles did with McCoy. He led the league in carries (314) and touches (366). Darren Sproles was acquired to create more havoc out of Philadelphia's backfield, but not necessarily cut into McCoy's work.
Sheil Kapadia of PhillyMag.com opined Thursday that McCoy won't see fewer touches just because of Sproles' presence. Kapadia supports his side by citing McCoy's impressive late-game and late-season stats from 2013, insinuating that a heavy workload doesn't wear him down but only makes him better.
"Matching last year's number of touches would be no surprise," Kapadia wrote.
McCoy was one of only two backs to get 300 carries last season, and his touches total bested his previous career high by 45. It's easy to be concerned about a player breaking down under that high level of labor, but McCoy doesn't have an extensive injury history, and he is in a perfect offensive system for him. Fantasy owners should continue to enjoy him as one of the first picks in any draft.
Now, does that mean he'll match 366 this season? That seems impossible to me. Eagles backup running backs last year, Bryce Brown and Chris Polk , touched the ball a total of 98 times last season. Sproles averaged more than 120 touches over the past two seasons despite missing four games due to injury. He won't be used as quite as much as he was in New Orleans, but even a low-end projection of his touches per game will probably surpass what Brown and Polk contributed. And the Eagles are expecting more out of Polk.
I think McCoy will end the year with about 310-320 touches, still a fantastic total. Sproles is a flex option in PPR leagues. Polk might actually be a better handcuff for McCoy owners as it's expected that he would take on most of the carries McCoy misses if he comes down with an injury. In such a scenario, Sproles would likely be kept in a receiver-first role.