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Will LeSean McCoy win the NFL rushing title in 2017?

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A couple of the writers at NFL.com seem to think he will.

A few days ago, some of the writers at NFL.com took a shot at predicting the NFL’s leading rusher in 2017. Specifically, the question was framed around whether Dallas Cowboys second-year man Ezekiel Elliott would pace the league for the second year in a row.

A couple writers pegged Buffalo Bills standout LeSean McCoy as the back most likely to lead the league in rushing next year. Alex Gelhar and Bucky Brooks both like Shady to top the NFL, specifically pointing to the opportunity he’ll receive in what should remain a relatively run-heavy offense under new coordinator Rick Dennison. Gelhar notes the success that Arian Foster had when Dennison was the offensive coordinator with the Houston Texans, while Brooks thinks the I-formation and zone blocking schemes the Bills are expected to employ should help them do wonders on the ground.

Aside from McCoy, a few other backs were named as possible rushing leaders. Elliott earned a few nods to become the first back to lead the league in rushing in consecutive seasons since LaDainian Tomlinson ten years ago (including one from Tomlinson himself). The BearsJordan Howard, who finished second in the league last season but was nowhere near Elliott’s output, is another talented back in what should be a run-heavy offense. David Johnson of the Cardinals and DeMarco Murray of the Titans both earned a vote, while Heath Evans seems to think that 32-year-old Adrian Peterson will return to form after missing most of 2016 with a knee injury.

On that note, it’s important to point out that the 29-year-old McCoy would be bucking history by winning the rushing crown. In the last 40 years, only four backs have led the league in rushing either during or after their age-29 season: Peterson in 2015, Curtis Martin in 2004, Barry Sanders in 1997, and Charles White in 1987. McCoy is sixth among active backs in career carries with 1,898, and his 437 carries over the last two seasons ranks eleventh in the NFL.

After losing primary reserve Mike Gillislee to the New England Patriots, there shouldn’t be as much competition for carries in the offense. Second-year man Jonathan Williams should pick up the primary backup role after a promising-but-inconsistent rookie year, while a group of free agent pickups (including UDFA Jordan Johnson from the University of Buffalo) will be competing for a roster spot behind him. Fullbacks Patrick DiMarco and Mike Tolbert will also siphon off a few carries, especially near the end zone, and quarterback Tyrod Taylor will also see his share of designed runs..

With a little bit of luck and and offense designed to give him a lot of carries, Shady could lead the NFL in rushing for the first time since 2013. Personally, given the number of options the Bills have and the talent of the other backs in the league, I’d be surprised to see him take the overall crown. My bet would be on someone the NFL writers failed to bring up: Le’Veon Bell of the Pittsburgh Steelers, who finished fifth in the NFL despite a four-game suspension early in the season.