8. DeMarco Murray, Eagles
2014 stats: 392 rush, 1,845 yards, 13 TDs; 57 rec., 416 yards, 0 TDs
2015 projections: 295 rush, 1,350 yards, 10 TDs; 31 rec., 220 yards, 1 TD
Murray had his big breakthrough season with the Dallas Cowboys last season, when he turned a massive workload (449 touches) into an NFL-high 2,261 total yards and 13 touchdowns. He traded in the Dallas Cowboys’ dominant offensive line for a free agent deal with the Eagles, where he’ll be flanked by Ryan Mathews in Chip Kelly’s fast-paced attack.
Stylistically, Murray is a superior fit in Kelly’s offense, which played a part in the coach jettisoning franchise rushing leader LeSean McCoy at the start of a busy offseason. Murray is the one-cut, north-south runner that Kelly prefers, more often avoiding negative-yardage plays while busting the second-most 20-plus yard rushing plays (15) in the NFL in 2014.
While Murray previously had a reputation for being brittle and is all but assured to see less work in Philly, he’s also running in an explosive offense that allowed McCoy to lead the NFL in rushing two seasons ago. That system gives Murray a chance to retain his NFL rushing title, even if he gets less work behind a weaker offensive line.
9. LeSean McCoy, Buffalo Bills
2014 stats: 312 rush, 1,319 yards, 5 TDs; 28 rec., 155 yards, 0 TDs
2015 projections: 295 rush, 1,280 yards, 8 TDs; 50 rec., 350 yards, 2 TDs
McCoy was shipped to Buffalo in a stunning offseason trade that led to cries of racism toward former coach Kelly. McCoy is now aligned with the Bills and brash coach Rex Ryan, who speaks optimistically about making McCoy the centerpiece of his new offense. The Eagles’ franchise rushing leader, McCoy gets a fresh start after rushing for 1,319 yards and five touchdowns last season.
McCoy led the NFL in rushing in Kelly’s first season in 2013, a huge effort behind an impressive line that stayed healthy for 16 games. The going got a little tougher last season, when injuries struck and mauling tackle Lane Johnson was suspended for four games. McCoy also deferred more of the pass-catching duties to Darren Sproles, leading to a drop from 65 targets to 37.
The Bills are less experienced along the O-line, and they have questions at quarterback with E.J. Manuel and Matt Cassel under center. But McCoy will get all the work he can handle, spelled only occasionally by veteran Fred Jackson. Shady is still a special talent and a rare bell-cow back in fantasy. It’s hard to imagine his production won’t at least inch upward as the Bills lean on him.