Leave it to Chip Kelly to drive expectations of both the best and worst imaginable outcomes, even in fantasy football. But Kelly might not be the biggest factor in the polarizing opinions on DeMarco Murray, the most volatile player at the top of drafts.
Even at an average draft position landing him 15.05 overall (RB9), Murray currently has a higher standard deviation (4.03) than all non-QBs in the top 25, via the RotoViz app drawing from MyFantasyLeague $10 best-ball PPR drafts. This is a remarkable opinion divide for a player with an ADP in the top 15, and creates a tough decision for drafters assigned mid-round picks who are high on Murray but would ideally wait for the teens in Round 2.
We have seen both sublime and disappointing stretches for Philadelphia’s starting RB since Kelly’s arrival, and no Eagles’ feature back covered himself in glory last season. Booting Nick Foles and LeSean McCoy for Sam Bradford and Murray will provide a great case study for personnel vs. Kelly scheme, though the offensive line turnover does mess with the control variable.
Still see people tweeting that DeMarco Murray, who averaged 4.9 yards per carry from 2011-13, was a 2014 offensive line creation.
— Patrick Daugherty (@RotoPat) July 27, 2015
Daugherty argues against heavily fading Murray based on last year’s workload. Much has been stressed over dodging running backs the year after they charge close or even past 400 touches. Murray’s 449 regular-season touches put him safely in the 390-touch club in which, as Pat notes, only four of 11 times has netted a 1,000-yard rusher the following year. He also notes that this “trend” is but a sample of 11 instances spread across 31 years.
Still, Murray’s 2014 workload can’t be ignored, and it climbs to 497 touches when including the postseason.
Only three running backs have ever followed up a 490-plus touch season — small sample because this is an absurd total — and each saw a significant decline, as Sports Illustrated’s Michael Beller notes. These three muted encores do fight through a bit of noise: Emmitt Smith, who’s on the list twice, held out to start the 1993 season and sprained his knee in preseason before leaving Week 1 wearing a neck brace in 1996, and Jamal Anderson tore his ACL in Week 2 of 1999. One can argue that the early-season injuries are related to the previous season’s workload, but one can also argue all three results are compromised.
Murray joins an Eagles line hit hard by injuries last year and by departures this offseason. For the first time in the Kelly era, Philly must replace multiple starting offensive lineman, as the team parted ways with fixture guards Evan Mathis and Todd Herremans. It’s hard to ignore how Kelly’s mastery of tempo, zone scheme and read-option concepts repeatedly help produce a top-end rush offense and Pro Football Focus‘ No. 1 ranked OL in terms of run blocking.
Murray has certainly benefited from offensive line talent and continuity in Dallas. Behind a line returning just two starters in 2012, Murray averaged 4.1 yards per carry his rookie season — bottom-half of the league and barely edging Jonathan Dwyer. Dallas returned three starters and drafted future second-team All-Pro center Travis Frederick the following year, and Murray’s YPC jumped to 5.2. Then 2014 saw four returning starters and All-Pro rookie Zack Martin, when Murray claimed the rushing title.
Murray has the blend of decisiveness, vision, burst and violence to make him one of the league’s best backs regardless of offense. But from a personnel and continuity standpoint, Murray leaves behind the gold standard.
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