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Latavius Murray, Skill Erosion, and Zero RB Drafting

lataviusmurray

The man deemed the perfect RB prospect last offseason is still very much, the perfect prospect. Latavius Murray coming out of Central Florida was beloved by the metrics and film watching crowd alike and even selected in the first round of some sharper rookie drafts. He then proceeded to earn the ‘redshirt’ year on the IR for the Raiders while Rashad Jennings took the carries during Darren McFadden’s annual injury. Then, predictably, everyone in fantasy football soured on him, stopped drafting him and talked themselves into Maurice Jones Drew for one last year in Oakland.

Change the names around, and Murray is in the EXACT same situation that he was last year when I wrote this Target Acquired piece. At the time, he was behind two older, oft-injured running backs in Rashad Jennings and McFadden. Replace Jennings with Maurice Jones Drew and we’re in the same spot.

I understand that MJD is essentially a household name in fantasy football, but he just isn’t the same player any longer. He averaged only 3.4 yards per carry last season, and his 3rd lowest yards per reception mark as a pro. The RotoViz RB Sim Score App doesn’t view his chances of a bounce back very favorably either.

MJDtableplot

I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say that out all of the highly regarded second year running backs who haven’t got a chance at a starting gig yet (Knile Davis, Christine Micheal), Murray is actually in the best spot to contribute to fantasy rosters this season. As discussed in the Toby Gerhart: Zero RB Savior piece, drafters who are going to spend the first several rounds collecting WR or TE talent are going to have to get creative in the mid to later rounds in order ensure that they are receiving adequate production from their RB slots. Murray fits the mold of a league winning pick; a player who is significantly undervalued due to circumstance, but has the talent to transcend his competition.

As a refresher, Murray is a transcendent athlete, far more so than Le’Veon Bell or Zac Stacy, and in the Knile Davis category of freakitutde.

Name Height (in) Weight (lbs) 40 Yard Speed Score Bench Press Vert Leap (in) Broad Jump (in) Shuttle 3Cone Agility Score
Latavius Murray 75 223 4.38 121 22 36 124 4.36 6.81 11.17

Better than average size, speed, strength and even agility. Compare Murray to the guys he is currently being drafted around in MFL ADP (Chris Ivory, Lache Seastrunk, Terrance West, and DeAngelo Williams to name a few) and he completely outshines them in terms of physical ability and route to playing time. Jones Drew has missed time due to injury in each of the last 2 seasons and Darren McFadden has never played a full 16 game season. Even if MJD and DMC are healthy, I still wouldn’t entirely rule out Murray eventually leading that backfield in touches due to sheer ability.

In discussing the sleeper ability of Oakland WR Andre Holmes, I noted that the Oakland offense is probably going to be more productive this season than in years past. Matt Schaub might be terrible, but he is a better signal caller than Matt Flynn and Matt McGloin. I don’t think he’s better than Pryor, but the OAK coaching staff mismanaged Pryor to a point that they are probably more comfortable with a more traditional quarterback.

If my thesis above is correct, there are few RB’s after an ADP of RB40 who have a better chance at posting high end RB2 numbers than Murray. He will be a forgotten man because of his position on the depth chart, but the fragility of the players ahead of him (as well as their potential ineffectiveness) make him yet another Zero RB target.

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