The Case Against Latavius Murray

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This article is part of the Fantasy Faceoff Series, so be sure to check out The Case For Latavius Murray.

Opening Statement

I want absolutely nothing to do with Latavius Murray at his current ADP. Drafters are investing in Murray as if his gigantic 2015 workload will continue, when in fact, that is not the case. I’m now going to prove to you why Murray not only lacks upside, but also any stability in the Raiders’ backfield whatsoever. You’d be better off lighting your league entry fee on fire rather than drafting Murray in the 4th round, and here’s why:

Inefficient 2015 Season

Latavius Murray benefited from a dream scenario last season. He received the third most carries in the entire league, in a day and age in which most NFL franchises utilize at least two running backs. Not Oakland in 2015 however, as Murray had the backfield all to himself. He was also able to stay healthy and play in all sixteen games in a year where Jamaal Charles, Le’Veon Bell, Todd Gurley, Marshawn Lynch, Dion Lewis, LeSean McCoy, Matt Forte, Mark Ingram, Arian Foster, Justin Forsett, and Thomas Rawls all missed time due to injury. With the exception of Rawls, all these guys were starting running backs for their respective teams heading into last season. Yes, 2015 was one of the worst fantasy seasons for the running back position we have seen in quite some time. Despite all of these factors playing heavily in Murray’s favor, he still was only able to muster up an overall RB11 finish.

Scott Barrett is a writer for Pro Football Focus Fantasy Football. He knows a thing or two about a thing or two. The Fantasy Footballers’ own Mike Wright has quoted this tweet many times on the podcast, and for good reason. It does a good job of illustrating just how inefficient Murray was with the ball in his hands last season (Scott has since corrected the tweet stating it is since 2002, not 2001).

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Negative Offseason

The Raiders’ decision makers must’ve taken notice to Murray’s inefficiencies because they spent all offseason trashing their starting running back. On February 12th, just days after the 2015 season officially ended, ESPN’s Adam Caplan reported the Raiders will be “looking to add another running back” this offseason. Just a few weeks later, CSN Bay Area reported the Raiders hoped Latavius Murray will be “more efficient with a decreased workload.” Then in March, the Raiders were in on the Doug Martin sweepstakes, but ultimately lost out when he returned to Tampa Bay. However, the search for another running back didn’t end there. Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie said, “we’ll get some help” in the backfield at running back and head coach Jack Del Rio declined to say that Latavius Murray would remain the team’s No. 1 back.

The Raiders finally got their wish when they selected running back DeAndre Washington in the 5th Round of this past April’s NFL draft. Days after the selection, Reggie McKenzie called Washington “more than just a third-down back; he’s a complete back.” Then in June minicamp, the Raiders wasted no time as they mixed Washington in with the Raiders’ first-team offense. While reading into offseason narrative is always a dangerous endeavor, there is more than enough evidence here for concern.

Reduced Workload

The argument many Murray supporters lean on is guaranteed workload. While that argument certainly would’ve held up last season, it’s a baseless one to make heading into 2016. Despite seeing 53 targets in the passing game and catching 41 of them, Murray was only able to turn those opportunities into 232 receiving yards last season. By comparison, Baltimore Ravens fullback Kyle Juszczyk caught the same amount of passes as Murray but was able to turn them into 321 receiving yards. Murray’s 5.7 yards per catch average certainly doesn’t look good stacked up against Juszczyk’s average of 7.8.

Meanwhile, Deandre Washington caught 124 passes for 1,091 yards and averaged 8.8 yards per reception in his college career. Washington is a very good pass catcher, and will significantly eat into Murray’s targets in 2016. Washington’s defined role of catching passes will give him a clear path to playing time this year, which means Murray will be sharing the backfield moving forward. Yet, Washington is not just a passing down specialist, he’s also a very capable runner. With Washington already on the field in passing down situations, he’s sure to receive a fair share of carries as well. The Raiders spent all offseason blatantly telling us they’re going to reduce Murray’s workload, and after the addition of Washington, that is not something I would easily ignore. And for those saying, “Yeah, but Washington was only a 5th Round pick,” just remember Murray was actually a 6th Round pick back in 2013.

Closing Argument

The Oakland Raiders backfield will be much more of a timeshare in 2016 than many fantasy owners realize. In fact, with the Raiders having more draft capital invested in Washington, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him take over as the lead back at some point in 2016. Whereas Murray could lose his starting job this season, other players being drafted around the same area such as Randall Cobb, Jarvis Landry, Jordan Reed, and Golden Tate all have guaranteed roles for the entire season as long as they are able to stay healthy.

If you prefer to draft a running back in this range, I would advise you to look at Dion Lewis and C.J. Anderson, seeing as they are actually good and possess top-10 upside at their position, unlike Murray. If Murray couldn’t finish in the top 10 last year in a dream scenario, he’s definitely not going to do it this season with a reduced workload. Drafters would be wise to consider the much larger sample size of Murray’s inefficient 2015 season rather than holding onto the nostalgic memory of a single carry he had against the Chiefs in primetime, all the way back in 2014. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t like throwing away my high draft picks. Draft the 2016 version of Alfred Morris at your own risk.

See where the Fantasy Footballers have Latavius Murray ranked. Read the other cases in our other Fantasy Faceoff Series:

The Case For/Against Sammy Watkins

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The Case For/Against Josh Gordon

The Case For/ Against Matt Jones

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