Fantasy Impact: Titans Acquire DeMarco Murray
Perhaps in the end it was fitting. DeMarco Murray left the Philadelphia Eagles 363 days after he was signed to a five-year contract. And the day after Murray signed with the team, he sent a message to a fan base now filled with resentment, anger and apathy towards the new running back of the Tennessee Titans.
Thank you to all the people of Philadelphia who welcomed me with open arms! Great to be apart of the family!Look forward to getting to work!
A relationship that began on Friday the 13th can only be defined as a nightmare. The likelihood of a heartfelt goodbye to the folks in Philadelphia appears slim. Fortunately fantasy football is all about second chances. How else would you explain Christine Michael?
Murray leaves the Eagles after a tumultuous season that saw wholesale changes in Philadelphia. Despite his contract, Murray started in only eight games last season. His 702 rushing yards were the second-lowest total in his career. Murray averaged a pedestrian 3.6 yards per carry, which was tied for 41st among qualified NFL running backs.
Perception is paramount as it relates to Murray. Last season he was lamented due to his 193 carries, the third lowest of his career. Prospective owners in 2016 will applaud a light workload last season. They’ll also appreciate Murray’s methods for properly preventing injuries.
And who could forget DeMarco Murray‘s in-bounds slide to avoid getting hit by a 185-pound CB vs. the Dolphins? Teammates paid notice.
— Jeff McLane (@Jeff_McLane) March 8, 2016
In Tennessee, Murray is paired with quarterback Marcus Mariota. Mariota began last season with plenty of read option success. While Murray didn’t succeed in Philadelphia with that style of an offense, Mariota is a far more athletic quarterback than Sam Bradford. Mariota ran for 252 yards last season, second on the team to only Antonio Andrews, who finished the season with 520 rushing yards.
The Titans as a team finished with the 28th fewest rushing attempts in the NFL last season. That is a statistic that head coach Mike Mularkey has to improve upon. Where the Titans don’t need much improvement is in the red zone. The Titans were the third most successful team in the red zone last season. But don’t fear Mariota serving as a vulture to Murray’s touchdowns near the goal line.
Mariota had only four of the Titans’ rushing attempts in the red zone. Andrews accounted for 41.9% of the Titans’ red zone rushing attempts (18). Of Andrews’ 10 rushes inside the ten-yard line, he scored three touchdowns. All but one of Murray’s five red zone touchdowns for the Eagles came from inside the ten-yard line.
Solidifying the offensive line is the surest way to retain success in the red zone. It’s also paramount towards improving the running game elsewhere on the field. Former Houston Texans center Ben Jones was signed by the Titans on Thursday. Jones’ hiring addresses a need and provides the Titans with quite a personality. Following an injury to starting center Brian Schwenke, the entire interior of the Titans’ offensive line failed.
The change along the Titans’ offensive line hopefully won’t have the same outcome as the changes endured on the Eagles’ offensive line last season. Unfortunately, the beginning of season featured an offensive line that also had questions about the guard play. Murray is also hopeful to avoid a start like he had in Philadelphia. In 2015, Murray was hit in the backfield 12 times in his first 29 carries.
A mass exodus, however, won’t be in effect in Tennessee. The Titans have the first pick in the NFL draft at their disposal. With the addition of an elite talent such as Laremy Tunsil, the Titans will improve two pieces of their offensive line in an offseason where the skill positions are also getting significantly upgraded. With an improved receiving corps and veteran tight end Delanie Walker, the onus won’t solely be on Murray to bail the offense out of trouble.
Mularkey’s desire to institute his “exotic smashmouth” offense should excite prospective Murray owners in 2016. While Murray’s propensity for injuries cannot be overlooked (he’s missed at least one game in four of the last five seasons), the Titans surely will give him all the work he can handle.
I believe expectations will be relatively low for Murray next season in the fantasy community. Certain teams carry a stigma that can be taken advantage of by savvy owners. It happened with the Jacksonville Jaguars’ skill players last season, and the value in the AFC South is going to head towards Tennessee. I firmly believe Murray will surpass the 1,000-yard mark rushing, and will contribute an additional 40-50 receptions. In PPR leagues Murray offers RB1 upside for RB2 cost.
Folks, there is still meat on the bone.