DeMarco Murray just turned 27 years old in February, and the Dallas Cowboys were unable to re-sign the franchise’s new single-season rushing leader. He ended up signing with the Philadelphia Eagles because he liked what head coach Chip Kelly was bringing to the table with his high-octane offensive gameplan.
Had Murray returned to the Cowboys, a very good case could have been made that he should be the No. 1 draft pick in Fantasy Football leagues in 2015.
From his emergence as a healthy workhorse in 2014 to the fact that Le’Veon Bell is suspended for the first three games of the NFL regular season, and Murray would seem to be a no-brainer as the top pick.
What’s interesting is that Murray grew up in Las Vegas and went to college at Oklahoma, which is still widely considered Cowboys territory – with the Chiefs coming in at a close second place.
DeMarco Murray’s Talent as an NFL Back
I’ve long held the belief that Murray was one of the best running backs in the league, but I always believed that he ran to contact. He loved to deliver a blow to would-be tacklers.
This past season, however, Murray was able to stay healthy (outside of a broken hand in Week 15 that he played through), and he finished 2014 as the best Fantasy running back in non-PPR leagues with 13 touchdowns and an NFL-high 1,845 rushing yards – nearly 500 more than second-place Bell.
I’m curious to see what the 2014 season’s toll will take on him. Only six other NFL running backs have ever carried the ball more times than Murray’s 392 carries in the regular-season.
Obviously, there’s going to be some regression, but does a huge season automatically mean a big dropoff in carries the following year? Not necessarily.
Of the six players that had more carries than Murray in a single regular season, three of them had 315 or more the following year. (Coincidentally, LeSean McCoy – the player Murray is replacing — was the only other running back with 300 or more carries this past year.)
And of the other three running backs, Eric Dickerson had 288 carries in a strike-shortened 1987 season, while Larry Johnson (foot) and Jamal Anderson (knee) missed more than half of their follow-up seasons with major injuries.
Follow-Up NFL Seasons After Monster Years
|Gerald Riggs, ATL||25||1985||397||1719||4.3|
|Eddie George, TEN||27||2000||403||1509||3.7|
|Eric Dickerson, STL||26||1986||404||1821||4.5|
|E.D.: STL/IND - strike||27||1987||283||1288||4.6|
|James Wilder, TB||26||1984||407||1544||3.8|
|Jamal Anderson, ATL||26||1998||410||1846||4.5|
|Larry Johnson, KC||27||2006||416||1789||4.3|
|DeMarco Murray, DAL||26||2014||392||1845||4.7|
One thing I’d like to point out is the ages of these players and their big years. Every single one of them had their team’s offense loaded on their backs at the ages between 25-27 years old.
On a weird side note, some players that could be workhorse candidates this season, within the age frame mentioned above and on an offense that could run a lot, include: Mark Ingram, Chris Ivory, LeSean McCoy and Alfred Morris.
DeMarco DeMakes Me DeWorry
As I mentioned, Murray joined the Eagles, and he’ll have Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles taking away touches, not to mention a high contract to live up to in a brand new offense with brand new teammates.
He no longer has the Cowboys offensive line, which was the best in the NFL last year – but he does get the Eagles offensive line (which was second-best).
He also doesn’t have Tony Romo and the Cowboys passing game to keep defenses honest. Granted, Kelly’s offense will be aggressive, as well, but it’s tough to be comfortable with Mark Sanchez and Sam Bradford at quarterback, compared to Romo.
What Do the Fantasy Experts Think?
A quick look over at the Experts Consensus Rankings over at FantasyPros.com tells us that Murray is ranked, on average, as the 19th-best player in non-PPR Fantasy Football leagues for 2015 (21st in PPR formats). Among just those at his position, he ranks as the ninth-best running back in the league, and 10th in PPR leagues.
ESPN’s staff has him ranked 10th overall – with Antonio Brown as the only non-RB to be drafted ahead of him. Matthew Berry has Murray seventh overall, and Chris Harris has him eighth.
CBSSports.com is a little more conservative, as am I, and they have Murray ranked 24th overall, as the 12th-ranked running back. Jamey Eisenberg has Murray ranked 29th overall, and Dave Richard has him 20th.
The fellas over at FootballGuys.com rank Murray as the 13th-best player on the board, and the seventh running back. Specifically, Sigmund Bloom (seventh overall) and Alessandro Miglio (18th overall) differ greatly on Murray’s rank.
Where Do I Rank DeMarco Murray for 2015?
Last month, I did my post-NFL Draft rankings for the 2015 Fantasy Football Draft Guide magazine, and I had Murray ranked as the 13th-best overall player, and the ninth-best Fantasy running back. I also did some new running back rankings this past week for FantasySports.About.com.
I ranked Bell and McCoy above him, as well as Arian Foster, who has a great Fantasy strength of schedule this season.
Among running backs, I have Murray behind Murray, I have C.J. Anderson, Jeremy Hill and Carlos Hyde – three guys that either have just one year as a starter or have inherited the starting tailback spot this season.
I’m more than comfortable taking Murray before those other running backs, even though I fear a short season from him and some abbreviated touches compared to last year. But he’s the devil I know – and that’s better than:
- A second year from Anderson in an offense that has rotated through running backs frequently in recent seasons.
- A sophomore bulldozing running back that has an able backup in Giovani Bernard, that could easily become a featured back if a Hill hiccup occurs.
- Another sophomore running back that could turn into this year’s version of Montee Ball out in San Francisco.
So that’s where I’m at with DeMarco Murray entering the 2015 Fantasy Football season with the Philadelphia Eagles!
Where would you draft Demarco Murray in Fantasy Football in 2015!?!
David Gonos spent 5 years as a CBSSports.com Senior Fantasy Writer and three more years writing with SI.com. Over the past 17 years, his work has been published on NFL.com, MLB.com, FanDuel, FoxSports.com and USA Today. Since 2001, he has been tracking down the Top 50-plus Free Fantasy Football Draft Tools online. You can contact David Gonos here.