I Like Latavius Murray

The Vikings backfield took a blow in the offseason with Adrian Peterson opting to head south to New Orleans. The Vikings also lost Matt Asiata to inter-division rival Detroit. Asiata had been one of their workhorses after Peterson went down with an injury in 2016. Left with basically only Jerick McKinnon, the Vikings set on a course to revamp their running game. They quickly signed two new tackles in Riley Reiff (Detroit) and Mike Remmers (Carolina). In addition to the new offensive lineman, they put big money on the table to bring in 27-year-old ex-Oakland Raider, Latavius Murray, and drafting the Florida State product, Dalvin Cook.

Latavius Murray is being slotted as the number one back behind an offensive line that ranked 29th last year. However, with new players to improve that line, we could be seeing an improvement in the trenches. Adding to the improved offensive line is quarterback Sam Bradford who will be given more control of the offense allowing for him to open the field up with more deep passes. All of this will additionally help the case for Murray, come 2017.

Rookie and backup running back, Dalvin Cook, is being drafted in fantasy leagues across the world above his starter Latavius Murray. For the life of me, I cannot understand why this is happening. Cook, the unproven at this level, Seminole, has the hype every rookie running back has. For good reason right? I beg to differ. Last year was the year of the rookie running backs, taking the attention away from the rookie receivers for the first time in a while. Ezekiel Elliott lead the way for the Cowboys with 1,631 yards and 15 touchdowns rushing. Next came, 5th round draftee Jordan Howard with 1,313 yards and 6 touchdowns on the ground. Following that was nothing to be excited about. Devontae Booker had 612 yards rushing, 4 touchdowns on the ground, yet, riddled with fumbles will probably be thrusted into the 3rd string role this year. Derrick Henry, second round draftee and arguably one of the best backs coming out last year, finished with 490 yards and 5 touchdowns on the ground. To summarize, out of the rookie backs, we had three rush for more than 500 yards and two rush for more than 1,000. Now with an immense amount of running backs being drafted early (8 in the first 3 rounds) everyone is trying to find the next best back. Fantasy footballers are following suit, drafting all the rookies way before they should be.

We’re going to dig a little deeper into Murray’s stats. At 27 years old, he’s only played in three NFL seasons. Combining for 543 career attempts, which in perspective is not much at all (322 from Elliott just last year). Meaning, Murray has a lot of tread on those tires still. Murray had 43 attempts in the red zone last year and found the end zone 12 of those times. Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata (Vikings top 2 rushers) had 59 attempts for 8 touchdowns in the red zone. Murray has averaged 4.0 yards per carry in the years as solidified starter in Oakland. In 71 less attempts in 2016 from 2015, Murray found the endzone 6 more times and still managed to keep his YPC average the same. Catching 8 less balls and gaining 32 more yards, he will be able to help Bradford with his dump off passes.

Digging even deeper, now into the offensive line stats and how Murray averaged behind each man in the trenches. Murray found a success rate behind the RG, RWR and LWR at 50%, followed by LG and C at 48%. Murray had 18 rushes over ten yards and 10 of them came up the middle behind the center. The Vikings rushers combined for a success rate of 48% behind LG and RWR and 45% success rate behind the RG. Vikings rushers combined had 18 rushes over ten yards and 6 of them came up the middle behind the center. Yes, the Vikings offensive line has changed plenty, as addressed earlier, but this still bodes well for Murray.

I’m avoiding Dalvin Cook in the sixth round and letting the rookie hype let everyone else jump at him too early. I’ll sit back until the eighth round finding a starter on a team that seems to have done all they can to improve the running game.