There are several running back competition and committee situations going into the 2015 NFL season. One of the less discussed instances is the situation in Oakland. With a new head coach in Jack Del Rio and a new offensive coordinator in Bill Musgrave, the pair are looking to significantly improve upon the team’s basement level rushing rank of #32 last season. Leading the way thus far are two talented young stars in Latavius Murray and Roy Helu. In terms of fantasy football, if you look at the ADP of the two, it looks like a cut and dried situation in terms of who you should own. I’m certain on who I would like to own, but it’s not in line with popular opinion. In this article, I will discuss my reasoning behind avoiding Murray in fantasy and opting to ride with Helu in 2015.
Impressive but Pricey
While the topic of this article is emphasizing the recommendation to avoid Murray in fantasy drafts, it is not due to a lack of potential talent(or the utterly laughable proposed competition with the newly signed Michelin Man aka Trent Richardson). Murray is a physical wonder at 6’2″ 223 pounds with a 4.38 40-yard-dash, 67th percentile agility score, and a 76th percentile SPARQ score. In his first active season (Murray spent 2013 on I.R.), he posted a 5.2 yards per carry average, 8 runs of 15+ yards on just 82 touches, and a 12 point fantasy point per game average over his last 5 active games. All of this was behind an offensive line that ranked #30 out of 32 in run blocking by PFF and a safe passing game posing almost no threat deep. While there are concerning factors about Murray’s game(small NFL sample size, only one college season with significant touch number, poor rate of missed/broken tackles(13.9%)), he appears poised to take over the initial starting RB position in Oakland. So what is my gripe with Murray? His price.
In MFL best ball leagues, Murray is coming off the board at the tail end of the 4th round(RB #21). If you utilize fantasyfootballcalculator, his ADP is currently at 4.01(RB #18)! Drafting him at this position is an illogical decision in several ways. While the Oakland Raiders are improving upon their utterly destitute position of the past decade, they were still #32 in the NFL in terms of average points scored per game, #32 in average yards earned per game, and #32 in allowed points per game average in 2014. A low scoring offense combined with an effectively “Swiss cheese” defense does not bode well for an RB looking to accrue a high carry and goal line TD count. While Murray is able to catch passes, he will most likely not be the first option to be on the field in that department. In addition, let’s not completely rule out the possibility of Murray not securing the starting RB job in Oakland as this is a new coaching staff that has no ties to him. The young RB has a lot of potential, but the price you have to pay to acquire him is buying him at his ceiling. I would find it very difficult to select him over options such as Frank Gore, C.J. Spiller, Jonathan Stewart, and Andre Ellington. However, there is another option with even better physical measurables on the same team at less than one third of the price. Who you ask?
Underestimated Talent Waiting to be Unleashed
Due to unfortunate injury timing in 2012, a top tier RB in Alfred Morris competing for touches, and role pigeonholing in Washington, Roy Helu has yet to see the opportunity to be a lead back thus far in his career. Given how he has been utilized up to this point, many would assume he is incapable of carrying a full workload for a team. I would argue that is more of a symptom of what he has been asked to do than what he is capable of. At Nebraska, he posted near and above 200 touches twice in a season.
|Year||School||G||Rush Att||Rush Yds||Rush Avg||Rush TD||Rec||Rec Yds||Rec Avg||Rec TD|
One factor that makes Helu such a high potential value is his efficiency. In 2014, in limited work(82 touches) behind a below average offensive line, Helu achieved these numbers relative to all RBs in the NFL with a >25% snap share, which you can check out at Pro Football Focus.
1. The #2 highest YPC1 average at 5.4
2. the #2 highest YAC2 average at 3.4
3. The #2 highest YPRR3 average at 2.2
4. A missed tackle per touch average at .317 that is on par with Marshawn Lynch(.318)
Along side these impressive numbers from last season are physical metrics that are simply extraordinary. Maybe none of this should be a surprise considering how well Helu tested in physical drills coming out of college. Here’s a screenshot of his workout numbers, which you can check out at PlayerProfiler.
Helu is a player walking into a projected passing back role on a team where the defense is expected to give up a lot of points. This could lead to far more passing opportunities for Helu as he has proven himself to be one of the most potent pass catching backs in the league. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that Helu is able to carve out a role akin to that of Danny Woodhead in San Diego, as well as being the most likely candidate to take secondary touches behind Murray. Oh, and you get all of this for a 13th-14th round pick in best ball and redraft. It’s a very small investment for a high value reward in a position of scarcity in fantasy football. Considering that it’s also possible Helu just wins the starting job, that sounds like quite the steal to me.
In summation, we have two talented and relatively unproven RBs on a team with a new coaching staff. One must be purchased at the price of his likely ceiling in the fourth round, while the other can be had around the time you are considering your D/ST and kicker. While Murray appears poised to earn the first opportunity for significant touches, it is anything but certain that he will produce and retain the job season long. In the case he does not, Helu will be on my teams ready to show what he can do.