Fantasy Impact: Latavius Murray to the Vikings
Another big-name running back is off the market, as Latavius Murray has agreed to terms with the Vikings. The specifics of the deal have yet to be released, but this almost guarantees that Adrian Peterson will not be coming back to the team. From a fantasy standpoint, there isn’t too much to get excited about for Murray. Let’s talk about the reasons why.
Murray played behind a top-five offensive line with the Raiders last year, as they spent tons of money in order to protect their franchise quarterback and get their run game going. After all, the 2015 season was a very disappointing one for all parties involved, as the Raiders running backs totaled just 1,325 yards on 333 carries (3.98 yards per carry) with seven touchdowns. Those numbers went way up in 2016, to 1,788 rushing yards on 383 carries (4.67 yards per carry) with 17 touchdowns. Impressive, right?
The angle here is that Murray didn’t really contribute to improving the run game, as he totaled just 4.04 yards per carry on his share, while Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington destroyed the league with their combined 5.64 yards per carry. I’m not going to say that backup running backs should have their yards per carry compared to the starter, but when they had almost as many combined carries as Murray (170 to 195), it’s not really a backup role.
The Raiders hadn’t showed any interest in re-signing Murray, which says they have other plans for their backfield (maybe Peterson?). I’ll admit that I was the biggest Murray supporter prior to him getting the starting job in 2015. When he was able to start a few games at the end of 2014, he looked like the back I thought he’d be – big, fast, and tough to bring down. Heck, he was built like Peterson in a lot of ways. But none of what we saw translated to a workhorse role. He became a running back that was boring to watch, not breaking any big runs while his teammates did seemingly every game.
Going to the Vikings is not going to help a player like Murray. In fact, it’s going to drag him into fantasy no-mans-land. While they did suffer some injuries in 2016, their offensive line didn’t clear any room for the running backs. Between Peterson, Jerick McKinnon, and Matt Asiata, they averaged just 1.23 yards before contact. That ranked as the sixth-lowest mark in the NFL, while the Raiders running backs ranked in the top-12.
He’ll walk into an immediate timeshare with McKinnon, who most view as a disappointment after last year. But as mentioned, his offensive line did him no favors. As the year went on, McKinnon started playing better, adjusting his game to what was a pathetic offensive line. He’d always been somewhat of a dancer behind the offensive line, so it was good to see him adjust. The Vikings did attempt to improve their offensive line and they’ll likely do the same in the draft, so don’t count out McKinnon.
Is there enough for both of them? When looking at the Vikings run volume over the last three years, it’s highly unlikely, as they have ranked bottom-10 in running back carries for two of the last three years. What you should expect is Murray to take on an extended Matt Asiata type role, with almost all of the goal line work, while McKinnon takes on almost all third-down work, while spelling Murray on the early downs.
As of right now, McKinnon is the one who benefits from this move from a fantasy standpoint. His ADP is likely to plummet into the double digit rounds, while Murray will be drafted inside of the top 30 running backs. It would be no shock to see Murray finish as a top-30 running back with all the goal line work, but you’re not going to see him finish inside the top 15 running backs. If Murray struggles, they might give McKinnon a bigger role, seeing as he can play all three downs. McKinnon has the upside and he’s the one you should snag late in your draft.