In one of the biggest free-agent acquisitions so far, running back DeMarco Murray is leaving the Dallas Cowboys for their division rival Philadelphia Eagles. Murray is coming off the best fantasy football season of his career last year. In 2014, he scored 361 points and finished as the number two running back, behind the Pittsburgh Steelers Le’Veon Bell who scored 371 points. He set career highs in rushing yards with 1,845, touchdowns with 13, receptions with 57, and receiving yards with 416. Unable to reach an agreement with the Cowboys he became a free agent when the 2015 NFL off-season started on March 10th. It took a few days, but after the many rumors of possible teams that were in the running for his services, he signed a five year, $40 million dollar deal with the Eagles. The Eagles were in need of a running back after LeSean McCoy was traded to the Buffalo Bills and Frank Gore backed out of his initial agreement and signed with the Indianapolis Colts.
Much of Murray’s success last season was contributed to his remaining somewhat healthy for the entire season and the exceptional play of the Cowboys offensive line. He started and played in every single regular season game for the first time in his career. In his four seasons in the NFL, he has missed 11 games, playing in 53 of 64 possible games. The Cowboys offensive line finished the season as the overall top ranked unit in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus. In Philadelphia, he will be running behind a lower ranked offensive line in 2015, but not that much lower. The Eagles were the overall number two ranked offensive line in 2014 according to Pro Football Focus and when broken down between pass blocking, run blocking, and penalties they were given the number one ranking in run blocking. So all Murray has to do is remain healthy and he should find some success in Philadelphia.
One of the things that will hurt Murray’s production in Philadelphia is a crowded backfield. When he signed with the Eagles, they had running backs Darren Sproles and Chris Polk on the roster. Shortly after it became official, the team announced they also signed running back Ryan Mathews (pictured to the right), who played with the San Diego Chargers last year. Similar to Murray, Matthews brings some injury concerns with him. He only played in eight games last year, rushing for 330 yards on 77 carries, and scored two touchdowns.
For his career he has played in 62 of a possible 80 games over five seasons. Much will hinge on how Chip Kelly plans to use Murray, Mathews, Sproles and to some extent Polk this coming season. From all indications Kelly is going to run a lot this year. “I don’t think it’s a concern,” Kelly said at a news conference Thursday. “But I also think, for us, part of having Ryan here is that I would hope DeMarco doesn’t have to carry the ball 392 times this year. If he does we’re running it 692 times.”
So what kind of fantasy season am I predicting for the 27-year old DeMarco Murray in 2015? There is no way he matches his production from 2014. I would have made that prediction even if he returned to the Cowboys. Prior to the trade I had him ranked as the number three running back. After the trade I moved him down two spots, to the fifth position. I have seen some argue he is no longer a first round pick in fantasy drafts but I disagree. I would have no problem taking him in the first round with the expectation of 270-290 fantasy points.