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Fantasy Football: The Case for DeMarco Murray

DeMarco Murray, The rushing leader of 2014, is hovering in the second round in fantasy football drafts in a situation that creates fantasy highway robbery.

fantasy football, DeMarco Murray


BOOM! That’s what John Madden would have said if he knew you could get DeMarco Murray of the Philadelphia Eagles up until the 15th pick in your fantasy draft. The situation is setting up beautifully to steal Murray wherever you please in the first round of your draft and possibly as your second pick, which is unbelievable to me. It seems the general consensus is that Murray’s value is significantly lower in Philadelphia, and I would have to disagree. While he may not reach his gaudy 294.1 standard fantasy points of 2014, I believe Murray can still finish 2015 as the number one fantasy football running back making him a must draft if he falls to the second round, and enter the consideration for a top 12 pick.

chart courtesy of RotoViz.com

chart courtesy of RotoViz.com

Above is DeMarco Murray’s current average draft position. I use best ball ADPs because these early league ADPs tend to be a good representation of how redraft ADPs shake out. Murray is being drafted at around the 14th pick on average, but he has been falling as low as 20. If you can get Murray as your second pick, do so without hesitation, because he will win you your league. Gratification, gusto, glory. It can all be yours.

Situation

It seems it is prevalent that Murray is leaving Dallas, the vaunted best offensive line in the league, and he won’t be able to match his efficiency from before, and possibly his production will drop. While he may not have the amount of carries he has in Dallas, I believe his yards per carry will rise because he actually will be running behind a superior offensive line. The Cowboys’ offensive line graded out at profootballfocus.com at 54.6 cumulative points on the 2014 season. The Eagles? 76.2. The media attention with having the league leading rusher, being “America’s Team,” and off-season tropes have the common perception being that Murray will not be as good runner in Philadelphia and that Murray was a product of the offensive line. This could not be more wrong. In 2011, Murray averaged 5.5 yards per carry on 163 attempts with an average Dallas Cowboy line that graded out at 33.4 at PFF, which was a middle of the road 14th best in the league that year.

Will Murray have the work in a talented backfield to produce numbers? I think so. Each of the last two years LeSean McCoy was given 314 carries with capable backs around him, and I think that is a fair projection for Murray this next season. There is one difference in the backfield, the exchange of Chris Polk for Ryan Mathews. I think the presence of Mathews may be the reason his ADP is where it is. There was a report on June 3 about how the two will divide carries, but I don’t think you should be worried.

I am not buying into Mathews stealing a sizable role because Murray is a far better player. Murray has tallied 4,527 rushing yards with 28 rushing touchdowns in a year less than it took Mathews to accumulate 4,058 rushing yards and 23 rushing touchdowns. Murray’s career yards per carry number is a healthy 4.9 to Mathew’s meager 4.4. That is an extremely large gap that separates change of pace guys from lead power backs. Ryan Mathews graded out at PFF with an overall grade of 1.6 in his best year, 2013. DeMarco Murray graded 16.2 overall in 2014 and 13.1 in 2014. Those grades include blocking as well as running, and Murray bests Mathews in all categories. The better player will see the field and earn the snaps.

Ok, there are always situational differences when weeding out the better player so let’s try to separate the runner from the team with missed tackle rate. I introduced missed tackle rate in this article: Tackle Rate. Missed tackle rate comes in at .170 for Murray in 2014. I am going to compare this to Mathew’s 2013 season, because he performed well and was injured for a good deal of 2014. Where does he land? .095 missed tackle rate in 2013. That is 44.1 percent lower than DeMarco’s rate, and Murray sustained his sixth best of 2014 missed tackle rate with 108 more carries than Mathews did in his best year!

In addition, having a big 5-year $40 million contract including $21 million guaranteed and a $5 million signing bonus signals Murray is going to get all the work he can handle. Murray is being paid royally to be a workhorse. This contract dwarfs Ryan Mathew’s 3-year $11 million deal. Contracts indicate the value of a player from a teams standpoint and if they break the bank, they expect the player to go for broke. He proved his toughness last year by playing all 16 games and avoiding all injuries but a minor hand which he played through. This doesn’t mention that the Eagle’s signed Ryan Mathews because they didn’t want to rescind a pre-agreed deal after they realized they could nab DeMarco Murray.

With a higher yards per carry in his career and a far better missed tackle rate along with contractual and skill reasons, Murray will command the lions share of the carries. Good players get the work and that will become self-evident to Chip Kelly very quickly.

Production

The Eagles run more plays than any other team in the league with their fast no huddle offense. Last year they ran 70.7 per game. Dallas ran 11.7 percent less plays with 62.4 per game. That near 12 percent may seem small, but over the course of a year can mean a great deal more of opportunity and production.

As previously stated LeSean McCoy had 314 carries each of the past two years, and I am going to use that as a prediction for attempts at production for Murray. If he runs 314 times at his career yard per carry rate of 4.9 he will have 1,538 yards which would have been second place this past season next to … DeMarco Murray. That doesn’t even take into account his yards per carry rate may rise due to a better offensive line in Philadelphia.

If Murray can get those previously mentioned 1,538 yards and his career TD season rushing average of seven that would be 195.8 fantasy points which would be the ninth place standard scoring fantasy point finish of 2014. If you factor in passing yards for DeMarco Murray and use the meager 155 receiving yards LeSean McCoy had in 2014 as your projection that brings you to 210.8 points, the eighth best fantasy running back finish. Last year LeSean McCoy lost goal line duties to Chris Polk and I don’t see a possibility of that happening to Murray because he has always exceeded on the goal line. Due to that, let’s give a more fair projection for Murray of about 12 touchdowns. That would give him 30 more standard fantasy points for a total of 240.8 good for fifth out of running backs. That point total is factored with extremely modest numbers, which I believe he will far exceed this season. He would only need 46.7 points more than that under projection to match the 2014 fantasy point runner-up to Murray, Le’Veon Bell, and I think that is easily attainable. In addition, Bell will possibly miss the first three games of the 2015 season making it easier for Murray to beat him out in total season long fantasy points. This will have him retain his value from 2014, finishing as the number one back.

The reigning offensive player of the year for 2014 finds himself in a funny place that he has seen before. The second round. In 2014 he was disgustingly undervalued and it seems that is exactly where we are heading this year. Murray will be just as much of a steal this year as last. He is all but guaranteed to carry most of the load for a productive Eagle offense. His fantasy point floor is having the fifth most fantasy points at his position in the 2015 season and his ceiling is to lead the pack. His ADP is in the second round currently. That smile. What’s not to fall in love with?

While Murray may have less fantasy points this year, he will still be of the same value as the previous year, with the most fantasy points of all running backs, and we all know how precious those coveted productive running backs are in fantasy football. Murray is a great bet to return a top 12 fantasy player value and is a great first round pick, but I can tell you this for sure. The rushing leader of 2014 hovering in the second round in a great situation creates a fantasy highway robbery and anyone who passes him at that point will be extremely disappointed when they miss out on a league winner. I’ll see you at the finish line holding the trophy!

Photo Credit: By J-Ham2000 [GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

ADP Chart courtesy of RotoViz.com

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