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Rewind: The Dynasty-Fantasy Value of Latavius Murray in 2016

Date:
January 23, 2018 11:39 PM
May 15, 2016 8:57 PM
— Our offseason ‘Rewind’ reports are where we look at an individual player’s previous season(s) of work–analyzing and researching it for clues on whether it was a ‘blip’ performance, or signs of future greatness…or signs of a mega-bust approaching. We try to do two per week in the offseason. —

Well, here it is. The winner of the ‘Rewind’ report voting tournament. Thank you, to all of you who took the time to vote. After spending a day going back through Latavius Murray’s 2015 season game by game, play by play, I can honestly say – I wish you would’ve voted differently.

This has to be the most confusing, perplexing ‘Rewind’ study I think I’ve done in the past 2+ years. I don’t know what to say. I’m still not sure whether to see Murray as a bargain for 2016, or whether I should ‘bail’. My ‘Rewind’ reports are supposed to solve life’s football mysteries, but I’m not sure I’m going to come through for you here. I’m not sure I’m even going to make any sense with this report, but here goes…

If the question to me is, “Is Latavius Murray an elite, franchise running back?” I have to say the answer is, “No“…but there’s a small-to-medium chance he really is.

If the question is, “Is Latavius Murray a good bargain to acquire for Fantasy Football 2016?” The answer is “Probably, yes.

I have four main notes/questions/confusions concerning my study of Latavius Murray’s 2015 season…

 

1) What does the tape say?

It’s a miracle that we have even gotten this far…as Latavius Murray owners.

We’ve always been strong supporters of Murray’s talent, but considering he’s a sixth-round pick that was ignored for a year-and-a-half by his team…it’s amazing he ever got the chance for us to debate how good/great he is. It took several injuries before he got a few carries later in 2014, and ran the ball like a god.…but then got hurt/concussed. As fast as his star rose, it fell/went to sleep in 2014.

People were cautiously optimistic about his 2015, where I was more ‘gung ho’. The actual results kind of fell in between those two sentiments. Latavius was a workhorse running back all season, but his numbers were not overly spectacular. Solid, better than most people expected, but not as nice as I was touting.

At a certain point last year, I turned, somewhat, on Latavius Murray. I didn’t like what I was witnessing. I didn’t see breakaway star Latavius Murray. I saw generic, decent-with-flaws running back Latavius Murray…a guy who was running like Melvin Gordon too much for my liking – too much dancing and caught for short/no gains, and not enough positive results. I expected so much more from Murray in 2015. I’ve seen better tape from him just looking at his flash from 2014. His tape was borderline ‘special’ in 2012 for Central Florida. He was mostly mediocre in 2015 for Oakland. Useful, but not great or special.

Here’s a concerning set of numbers from 2015…

I took a random selection of RB names, and compared them in a particular category – the percentage of all their rushing attempts ended in 10 or more yards on the carry. I felt like, watching the tape, that Murray was doing nothing…nothing…nothing…and then ‘pow’, a big gain giving him some decent overall numbers. I didn’t see a consistent RB. I thought he’d have an inordinate, higher percentage of 10+ yard runs propping up his overall tally. I was wrong…and that’s also scary that he isn’t showing the big run ability on paper either (at least in 2015). He was much more effective in 2014.

 

Percentage of 2015 carries that resulted in 10 or more yards:

13.1% = Peterson, Minnesota

12.8% = Johnson, Arizona

12.1% = Murray, Oakland 2014

12.0% = Freeman, Atlanta

11.3% = Miller, Miami

11.3% = Gurley, LA Rams

8.1% = Gordon, San Diego

 7.5% = Murray, Oakland

 

I only picked these seven RBs, at random…the top RBs who came to mind, or guys I thought were overrated (and I would expose them). I expected to see Murray at/near the top, but he was the bottom piece. However, he was much more brilliant here in 2014.

I feel like Latavius Murray is going to burn me in the long run. I can see it coming – he’s a guy, who I know that has a ton of athletic talent – but he didn’t show it enough in 2015, but I saw it in 2014…and in 2012 at Central Florida. The moment that I temper my enthusiasm on him, that’s when he’ll find himself…and dazzle everyone. Murphy’s Law. It will probably happen in 2016 because he’s heading into his free agent period.

 

2) Can I blame other things for his 2015 season?

The prosecutor in me is finished. Here comes the defense lawyer version. How much of Murray’s more mediocre 2015 showing can be blamed on the Oakland offensive line? They lost their starting left tackle to begin the season (Menelik Watson). Perhaps the reason why Murray was wrangled for several short gains might be because the blocking wasn’t there. On my tape study, at times, I thought it was the blocking. Other times, I started to wonder what Latavius was seeing.

Does the strength of Murray’s 2015 schedule factor into this? He did draw the Denver Broncos twice in the meat of the Fantasy season…two matchups in-season against the 2015 Denver run defense is not going to help anyone’s output.

I watched Murray scuffle to lowly results versus Denver, twice (Weeks 5 and 14), but then I’d see him pushing around quality run defenses like the Jets’ or Chiefs’.

I wish I could tell you definitively, but the blocking issue wasn’t conclusive to my eyes, and looking over the data I could not blame or dismiss his schedule layout in 2015.

His tape was so-so, but had spots of excitement. The O-Line blocking looks like it lacked a bit, but I can’t fully blame them. The schedule was rough in sports, easier in others. I’m not helping you make sense of this…am I?

 

3) What does the team think about all this?

When all else fails, it’s always good to take your cues from what the coaches are doing/saying…even if they are blind, they still dictate workload, etc.

It appeared that Murray was quasi-benched a couple of times last year – for a couple of different quarters last year. It freaked all of us Murray owners out on a Sunday night, and all the following week, but then Murray would be right back at it, taking the lead the next week. He led the Raiders in rushing yards every single game of the 2015 season – only Adrian Peterson and Frank Gore could claim the same last year.

One of the national football media’s favorite pastimes is speculating negatively about Latavius Murray. They are constantly talking about the Raiders trading for a big-name running back, or signing a big free agent, or drafting replacement-quality RBs…but then the team never really does anything ‘scary’ or extreme. Roy Helu freaked some of us out as a Raiders pickup in free agency in 2015, and that didn’t amount to jack squat. The Raiders were rumored to be in play on any number of running back options available in free agency 2016, and they didn’t sign one of them. They passed on many of the bigger name RB prospects in the 2016 NFL Draft, and took lower profile but talented DeAndre Washington out of Texas Tech – a guy who can work in the league, but no one sees as an heir-apparent workhorse for the future. Washington is a nice back to have in your rotation/arsenal, but you’re not building an offense around him. All the personnel activity at RB by Oakland has been a backwards compliment/endorsement of Latavius Murray as the Raiders workhorse…I assume?

Our top 100+ (+IDP) Dynasty Rookie Draft rankings will be published at College Football Metrics.com — 100+ prospects ranked, 6,000+ words of commentary, and a listing of the big-name prospects ‘we won’t touch’.

 

4) Do the signs point to a 2016 value play or a looming disappointment?

My sense of Latavius Murray’s market value is this – the national football media does not like him. That’s not going to change unless Murray goes bonkers like David Johnson did last season. David Johnson shut the mouths of all the naysayers…and then wired their jaws shut, and then just cut off their heads with his supreme performance in 2015. Critics of David Johnson sit in silence today. The critics of Latavius Murray are alive and well.

The constant drumbeat of sourness about Latavius forces the Fantasy Football masses to undervalue him. He’s tracking has a #15–20 ADP running back in early redrafts. Somehow DeMarco Murray, Thomas Rawls, and Jeremy Langford are taken well ahead of him (according to ADP numbers). The national sentiment is somewhat against Murray. That creates value.

However, what you’re likely more interested to know is whether there’s more than just a ‘good value’ here. You want to know if Latavius Murray has a potential pop coming a la David Johnson… Can Murray be an elite, franchise running back. Should Dynasty GMs be in hot pursuit?

I’d like to split the difference with my answer.

Yes, Murray is undervalued for Fantasy Football. In an era where teams no longer rely upon one workhorse running back, Murray was third in the NFL in carries and fourth in ‘touches’ in the last year. He was a Pro Bowl running back in 2015. At this point, the only running back who could push him on the depth chart is a 208-pound, 143rd draft pick rookie. Trouble does not appear all that imminent on the current roster.

Can Murray be an elite, franchise running back that will set the NFL/Fantasy Football on fire? My answer is, “Definitely, maybe.” I know, from our computer models, that (quick, top-rated examples) Jeremy Langford does not have superstar qualities. Nor does Melvin Gordon.  Latavius Murray, however, has high-end physical traits. He should be a superstar. He wasn’t last year. Perhaps, he develops into one this year. This is a guy who basically didn’t run the ball his first two years of NFL existence, and then year three he was a workhorse who never got hurt. In college, he was a converted running back from a wide receiver/H-back/tight end. It’s not like Murray has a lot of miles or experience. What I saw on tape in 2015 was not an elite running back. A saw a decent one, but not anything that ultra-impressed me. Too many short runs/missed opportunities carry after carry. Because I know our computers said that Latavius has some superstar DNA, I have to hold out some hope on the possibilities…especially heading towards free agency.

I think the Latavius Murray is a better talent than his current Fantasy ADP/standing in the football world. However, I’m tempering my enthusiasm about him as ‘the next Adrian Peterson’. I do acknowledge there’s hope to be had that Murray becomes elite, but I’m not as sure about it as I was after 2014.

When I take all the pieces of the Latavius Murray Fantasy Football puzzle and lay them out – I’m a buyer. If he’s just ‘good’ (as a talent) in a good+ situation, he’s undervalued today because of the media attacks on him over the past year+.

I’m a little bit more of a motivated buyer because I know Murray will be useful in 2016, but he also comes with the kicker that he might finally, fully spring into that elite talent who we thought he could be. In the past, I would’ve spoken about Murray as an almost no-brainer future star. After watching his 2015, I have to downgrade my statements to – I think he can be a superstar.

Dynasty GMs should trade for him as a back-end RB2 valuation. That’s where most people see him. If his current owner has more faith, and sees him as an RB1… I wouldn’t go chasing waterfalls. He’s not a must-have, but he is a strong like-to-have…at a good value.

The 2015 tale is pretty generic on Latavius Murray. At times, he was a breakaway runner in the ground game with the hands of a wide receiver in the passing game. Just when you’d get your hopes up, he’d bobble a pass or get stiffed on a 2nd/3rd and 2 type scenario. At his best, he’s a high-end star runner. But too often he was just a solid runner in 2015. There’s hope for 2016+ stardom, but it’s not a slam dunk he wildly exceeds your expectations.

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About R.C. Fischer

R.C. Fischer is a fantasy football player analyst for Fantasy Football Metrics and College Football Metrics. 

Email rc4metrics@gmail.com

Learn more about RC and the Fantasy Football Metrics system >>