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Campfire Chat: What's Going to Happen in the Minnesota Backfield?

The Footballguys staff hangs out and discusses what's going on in Minnesota

With the departure of Adrian Peterson, the Vikings backfield will obviously be different in 2017. Latavius Murray was added in free agency and was expected to be their lead back. That may have changed, however, when Minnesota drafted Dalvin Cook. How will the team use these two running backs? Is anyone else on the team expected to have a role?

Chad Parsons: The disparity of Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murray's ADP is shocking to me. My research has shown, in general, the veteran is undervalued when a rookie comes into the mix. Cook is firmly in the RB2 zone of ADP, while Murray is not unless the late rounds and usually outside the top-50 of running backs.

My bet is Latavius Murray - assuming health - will see the most touches plus the all-important goal line looks. I question Cook's projection as a feature back in the high-volume sense at 210-215 pounds. We will see. Based on their respective ADP, Dalvin Cook is an avoid player and Latavius Murray is a moderate target player.

Alex Miglio: I like Cook as a PPR option, but Chad is right -- Murray is a much better value. Not that I particularly like the Minnesota backfield.

Justin Howe: The problem as I see it is that Murray is borderline awful. He's spent the last two years running behind a truly elite front line, but he's made little of it in terms of efficiency. He's averaged just 4.0 yards per rush - very poor considering his line - and both years finished near the bottom of the league in positive run rate. His fantasy saving grace has been touchdowns (12 last year), but it's hard to expect that to carry over to Minnesota to any degree. And I have strong doubts as to whether he'll lock down the passing-game work he had in Oakland.

All of this tells me that, even if Murray were to lock down the featured role and flirt with 250 touches, he'd still struggle for much fantasy dynamism. And we know that, barring injuries elsewhere, that certainly won't happen. There's now real three-down talent among his competition, and he's lost most of his first Vikings offseason to injury and opened camp on the PUP list. I see him falling in as, at best, a 1C in a suboptimal rushing offense, with the downside of falling largely out of the rotation. I guess we can call him a bargain, considering his ADP is (rightfully) deflating, but I don't see any upside here beyond bye-week flex value. And that'll only come if every variable pans out well for him.

Jason Wood: I see a lot of us talking about Murray as a value arbitrage, but our rankings don't back those claims up. Murray is RB45 in our rankings versus RB43 at current ADP. The highest ranking on staff is Andy Hicks at RB36, and I'm second highest at RB38. More than 50% of staff have Murray ranked BELOW his current ADP, and yet he's the guy to grab? No way. Doesn't add up.

Jeff Tefertiller: Great point, Jason. Let's remember that Murray still is not back healthy practicing. I like Cook but I think we will look back on this situation with regret due to the poor offensive line.

Miglio: Way to call us out on our own BS, Jason. Currently have Murray at RB42, which I think is about right. The issue is, even if he's a great value, he isn't really a great option in redraft leagues. I think he's much better in best-ball leagues where his smattering of good games might get into your "starting lineup" once in a while.

Clayton Gray: Yeah, nobody really likes Latavius Murray. I don't think the Vikings are big fans either, especially when Cook is shining so bright in camp.

Mark Wimer: I am in the Cook camp big time - I tried to draft him in all my dynasty leagues and happily snagged him in all but one. Murray was going to be the guy as of the free agency period, but when Cook fell in the Vikings' lap that all changed.

By the way, Murray should be a happy camper - he's getting good money for NOT taking hits in Minnesota this year.

David Dodds: Add me to the not on any of these guys list because of the poor OL. Cook is the most intriguing, but he is currently being drafted as if Latavius Murray is headed to IR. I don't suspect that is the case and this will likely be a timeshare situation once Murray is healthy. Don't forget about Jerrick McKinnon either. He is likely the team's best 3rd down back. I want clarity and a good offensive line for my backs. The Vikings have neither.

Sigmund Bloom: Watch this Riley Reiff injury, team saying its nothing major, but also they dont know when he'll be back.

For the record, I think Cook is the only one that can change the destiny of your fantasy team, but that is being priced into his ADP. I think the Vikings might not have signed Murray if they had known they could get Cook with a minor trade up in the 2nd round. Clearly they had him rated as a first-round talent. I agree with Dodds about McKinnon. He really came alive as a receiver when Pat Shurmur took over last year and Shurmur will use 2 back sets. If Cook gets hurt (history of shoulder issues), McKinnon will be very useful in PPR leagues.

Phil Alexander: I'm glad two guys who are smarter than me both mentioned McKinnon before I had a chance to. Now I won't be the only one facing Wood's wrath.

As Bloom and Dodds alluded to, McKinnon -- the only incumbent back on Minnestoa's roster -- won't just disappear. After Norv Turner left the team in Week 8, Shurmur started using McKinnon out of the shotgun more frequently. The results were a 20% increase in McKinnon’s rush yards per attempt over the final six weeks (from 3.4 to 4.1), to go along with 35 receptions for 226 yards (he only had eight total catches in the first eight games under Turner).

This backfield reeks of a committe, so I'm doing my best to avoid it altogether. But if forced to choose between Cook (climbing ADP, rookie with veteran competition), Murray (awful for all the reasons Justin already mentioned), or McKinnon at their current ADPs, I'll take a shot on McKinnon. He's the cheapest (going undrafted in 12-team leagues), most familiar with the offense Shurmur wants to run, and his athleticism gives him upside if he's elevated due to injury or carves out a role during camp.

Andy Hicks: Jason mentioned my relatively high ranking for Latavius Murray, but that is going to come down. He isn't practising, is an average NFL back, has a poor line and serious competition for playing time.

I do think the Vikings will protect Dalvin Cook as much as they can with Murray and Jerick McKinnon, but all things being equal he is the best back here and if the line can be halfway decent will be the starter by the end of the season. That is not a given though as we saw how much ground Minnesota has to make up in run blocking. Fitness pending, Murray and McKinnon are likely to start the season and Cook will be eased in. Depending on how much Cook comes on, will see how Murray and McKinnon perform. McKinnon is likely to keep the 3rd down role, but I am yet to be convinced that he has a future in the NFL.

Cook has the upside, but will be drafted at too high a price.

Murray is a good late round pick if you are looking for a back to start the season, fitness pending.

McKinnon is someone to consider in PPR leagues, but there are better options out there.

Stephen Holloway: Murray is a career pedestrian running back. He has not been dominant, averaging only 4.2 ypc in his three seasons. He has also caught 91 passes, 74 in his past two seasons and scored 20 touchdowns. He's a solid NFL player because most teams prefer to have depth and use a RBBC. His current problem is that he is on the PUP list and the rookie, Dalvin Cook is making hay while the sun is shining. And Jerick McKinnon has a similar production history and entering his 4th year at Minnesota. Murray indeed has placed himself behind the eight ball. His three year contract signed in March included only $3.4 Million guaranteed and he could be moving toward a single season stay in Minnesota if Cook runs well enough to form a RBBC with McKinnon.

Chris Feery: This situation screams RBBC - at least out of the gate - so I’m inclined to pass in general. As the season moves along, we can expect Cook to begin to separate himself from the pack and eceive the bulk of the workload. That’s not enough for me to spend a pick on him in a redraft league, but he’s a viable choice in best ball formats. As for Murray and McKinnon, I’ll consider the former if I really need a back in the later rounds, but I’ll pass on McKinnon barring some incredibly promising news out of training camp.