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Player Spotlight: DeMarco Murray

A detailed look at DeMarco Murray's fantasy prospects for 2013

Setting the Stage

DeMarco Murray was an All-Conference selection for three consecutive years at Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas, Nevada. He was ranked as a four-star recruit by Rivals coming out of high school and had scholarship offers from schools across the country, including Miami, Texas A&M, Penn State, and Southern California, but decided to attend Oklahoma. He red-shirted his first year and then played four years for the Sooners from 2007-2010. He was very productive his first two seasons averaging 5.77 ypc, but his average fell off considerably in his last two years as he managed only 4.24 ypc. He was an effective receiver over his collegiate career totaling 157 receptions for 1,571 yards. He was also effective scoring as he wound up with 63 TDs.

Heading into the 2011 NFL Draft, he was considered an explosive athlete that would likely be used as a change of pace running back and heavily featured as a receiver. He was heavily used at Oklahoma and missed quite a bit of playing time due to injury. He was drafted in the third round, 71st overall by the Dallas Cowboys and was the sixth running back taken, behind Mark Ingram, Ryan Williams, Shane Vereen, Mikel Leshoure, and Daniel Thomas. In retrospect, despite Murray's continued injuries, he was a very productive selection by the Cowboys. Murray's career statistics are provided below:

Year Gms Rushes Yards ypc TDs Targets Recs. Yds. ypr TDs
2011 13 163 895 5.5 2 35 26 183 7.0 0
2012 10 161 663 4.1 4 41 34 247 7.3 0
Totals 23 324 1,558 4.8 6 76 60 430 7.2 0

Looking Forward to 2013

The Cowboys hired Bill Callahan as their offensive coordinator in 2012 and he remains in that position for 2013. Cowboy fans hoped that Callahan's hiring would help out their offensive line play, but that has not been the case yet.

The Cowboys have long been a team that relies on quarterback leadership and the passing game. Tony Romo has consistently been a very productive passer for the team during his seven years as their starter. The team seems to be content having their primary focus on the passing game. The chart below provides the play calling differentials between the running and passing games for the Cowboys over the past four seasons. It should be noted that quarterback sacks are not included so the actual number of passing plays is slightly decreased from the actual numbers with this comparison.

Year Run Plays Run % Pass Plays Pass % Total Plays
2009 436 44.2% 550 55.8% 986
2010 426 42.6% 575 57.4% 1,001
2011 408 41.7% 570 58.3% 978
2012 355 35.0% 658 65.0% 1,013
Totals 1,625 40.8% 2,353 59.2% 3,978

Despite the overwhelming dependence on the pass while Jason Garrett was the Offensive Coordinator, the passing play percentage actually increased in Callahan's first season and in fact the number of passes and the percentage of passing plays has increased every year for the four-year period.

I expect 2013 to continue the same trend and the Cowboys will continue to pass the ball, keeping the number of targets high for Dez Bryant, Miles Austin and Jason Witten at tight end. Each of these three players have the skills and should have the opportunity to produce 1,000 yard receiving this year. They only missed that level last year by Miles Austin managing only 943 yards and he played hurt several games.

Positives

  • Murray is a solid running back and a very capable receiver out of the backfield
  • The effectiveness of the passing game should help the offensive line open holes

Negatives

  • Traditional focus on the passing game limits opportunities – Murray had only three games in 2012 with 20 or more carries
  • Murray's continued inability to stay on the field
  • Sub-standard offensive line play continues to trouble the Cowboys
  • Drafted Joseph Randle, who has similar skills to Murray

Final thoughts

DeMarco Murray will continue to have some outstanding games, but lack the consistency needed to cosistently reach expectations. He is currently going at 26th overall as RB16. Players currently being drafted just before and after Murray include Andre Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, and Roddy White. I would prefer all three of them over Murray.

Projections

  Rushes Yards ypc TDs Recs. Yards TDs
Dodds 225 968 4.3 7 43 301 1
Holloway 200 880 4.4 5 37 260 2
Atkins 275 1,329 4.8 9 51 380 2

Other Viewpoints

Ghost Rider's opinion from the DeMarco Murray Spotlight Thread

There is a lot to like about Murray, but I fear that, even despite his injury problems again last year, he will be overvalued again this year. The fact that Dallas seems to hate running the ball inside the 10 could take a handful of touchdowns away from him, and it is always dangerous to count on a RB scoring a lot of touchdowns if most of them have to be from long distances (unless your name is Barry Sanders of Jamaal Charles). It is hard to project for Murray, as God only knows if he will be healthy all season, but 75-80 rushing yards per game, 2-3 catches a game and a touchdown every other game seems like a pretty good average, so figure out how many games you think he will play and then do the math.

The Dirty Word's opinion from the DeMarco Murray Spotlight Thread

At the end of the day, Murray has shown that when healthy, he's a significant producer. However, his track record isn't all that long and in two pro seasons, he's suffered injuries in each that have taken him out of the line-up for extended time. He's the type of player I might take a chance on in Round 3 if I don't like my upside options where I'm drafting. And if he can put together a full 16 game season, it's almost assured he'll outperform his draft position (at least where it stands today; early 3rd round), but the injury history is a lot to ignore here and I would peg his chances of playing all 16 games at somewhere between 25-40%. If you can live with that uncertainty and black cloud, it has the potential to pay off.

Scott Atkins' opinion from Scott@RedblueRadio

DeMarco Murray represents "through the roof" potential in PPR fantasy leagues. The only question is health, which has been an issue following Murray his entire career, not unlike Reggie Bush who in his early career couldn't shake the stigma of injury prone, however look no further than his last two years of becoming NFL tough. I'm projecting Murray on what he can do, and that's all I can really do. There's only a handful of backs that bring his potential workload in a high powered offense to the table. He is a top 5 RB in PPR if he plays 16 games. Excellent RB fantasy points in the 3rd round allows you to confidently start your draft WR-WR if need be.


More from Steve Holloway:

Player Spotlight: Vincent Jackson - August 8
Player Spotlight: Brandon Marshall - August 3
Player Spotlight: Ryan Mathews - July 31
Player Spotlight: A. J. Green - July 28
Player Spotlight: Andre Johnson - July 24
Player Spotlight: Brandon Myers - July 23
Player Spotlight: Julio Jones - July 23
Player Spotlight: Rashard Mendenhall - July 23
Player Spotlight: Jake Locker - July 22
Player Spotlight: Lamar Miller - July 22