When the NFL free agency period began, we were all anxious to see where the free agent RBs would land. Unfortunately, the supply at the position seemed to outweigh the demand. This, in addition to a strong incoming rookie class, meant many free agent RBs would have to wait for their deals. Latavius Murray waited almost a week before he inked his 3-year deal with the Minnesota Vikings worth $15 million.
Fantasy Reaction: Vikings Backfield
Last year, the injury to Adrian Peterson left the Vikings short-handed. They were so desperate that they even gave Ronnie Hillman a few carries. Having addressed the issue by signing Latavius Murray, there is going to be some significant fallout as fellow writer Ryan Weisse speculated earlier last week. First and foremost, Adrian Peterson is gone. Vikings GM Rick Spielman made this clear in his comments following the signing of Murray. Murray’s presence also spells the end for the UFA plodder, Matt Asiata. This leaves Murray as the clear early down back with converted QB and workout warrior, Jerick McKinnon, serving as a change of pace/receiving back (think Jalen Richard from 2016, an early ADP sleeper for 2017).
Fantasy Reaction: Raiders Backfield
Speaking of Richard, the Raiders RB now only shares the depth chart with DeAndre Washington. However, it is likely that the Raiders will use some draft capital on a RB or possibly even opt to bring in a free agent (I hear Adrian Peterson is available). Recent news has also thrown out the possibility of luring Marshawn Lynch out of retirement, which could just be nonsense. Needless to say, this is a backfield in flux.
Fantasy Reaction: Latavius Murray
Let’s get one thing out of the way. The 2016 Raiders Offensive line was top 5 while the Vikings unit was bottom 5 in the league. This is an obvious setback. However, it may not be as bleak for Murray as it seems.
In 2016, the Vikings offense was in shambles. Sam Bradford, who wears number 8, was traded to the Vikings 8 days before their first game. Then, following their Week 8 loss, their offensive coordinator, Norv Turner, resigned. If this wasn’t bad enough, they were also forced to use 8 different starting offensive line combinations. (Perhaps 8 is just unlucky for the Vikings. It’s a good thing Murray isn’t going to wear Peterson’s old number, 28.) All this turmoil led to the Vikings posting the lowest rushing yardage total in the league. It was so bad, McKinnon was their leading rusher with 539 rushing yards.
This is a rushing attack with plenty of room for improvement. Minnesota has already taken steps to bolster their offensive line in free agency by adding tackles Mike Remmers and Riley Reiff. Additionally, Sam Bradford will have another year in the offense allowing them to open up the playbook and challenge defenses downfield. This should open up running lanes for Murray.
I expect Murray to make the most of his opportunity in Minnesota. He is generally known for his big play potential and his large frame (6’3 230lbs) makes him a lock to be the Vikings’ goal line back. Murray is no slouch in the passing game either as he has grabbed 74 balls over his last two seasons with the Raiders. It is also worth mentioning that leaving the AFC West also means that Murray will not have to play 4 games against the stout defenses of the Broncos and Chiefs.
While he is unlikely to make anybody’s list as an RB1, I am confident drafting Latavius Murray as an RB2 at his current ADP in the middle of the 4th round in PPR formats.