Murray goes from one of the best offensive
lines in the league to one of the worst in Minnesota.
Harken back to a Monday night during the 2014 season. A young
sixth-round runner out of Central Florida with a tantalizing combination
of size and speed takes a handoff up the middle for a 93-yard
touchdown against Oakland’s division rival the Kansas City
Chiefs. And although he would leave the game early, with an injury,
Latavius Murray’s breakout game (4-112-2) was the start
of a fantasy story that would span another season and a half.
Now he finds a once promising career at a crossroads, signing
a multi-year deal with the Vikings to replace their Hall of Fame
runner. Can Murray help revive his career, and the Vikings run
game in one fell swoop?
Coming off a 1000-yard, six touchdown sophomore season, Murray
was drafted as an RB1 in most fantasy leagues last summer. And
while he finished a solid 13th among the position in standard
scoring, his weekly yardage totals were highly disappointing.
His top 15 finish largely came on the back of a whopping 12 touchdowns,
many of which were inside the 5-yard line. His lack of lateral
agility was huge factor in his low yards per carry average, and
he rarely made it past the first defender. He actually regressed
as a pass catcher, and as the season wore on, lost meaningful
snaps to his rookie teammates. Unable to get much going despite
playing behind one of the best lines in the league, Oakland likely
felt Murray was easily expendable and weren’t willing to
offer much money.
Oakland’s loss is seemingly Murray’s gain. He signed
was essentially amounts to a one-year deal, as the Vikings look
to overhaul one of the least effective running games in the league.
Plagued by injuries, downright dreadful offensive line play, and
a set of running backs with limited skill sets last season, Minnesota
hopes Murray can provide the efficient running style to keep this
offense moving. The Vikes offensive line took a public beating
most of last year, and for good reason. But sometimes we forget
just how comically injured the line was, forcing third-stringers
into starting roles. They were forced to patch the line with veterans
off the street at times, and this calamity left the running game
They’ve tried to patch things up this off-season, starting
with the signing of veterans Riley Reif and Mike Remmers. Neither
player is Pro Bowl caliber, but they both provide strong upgrades
in personnel. I anticipate a few more young guys joining the roster
via the draft, giving the Vikings a much more stable corps of
Another positive for Murray is the change in division. While solid,
the defenses of the NFC north aren’t nearly as ferocious
as those in the AFC West. This downgrade in opponent should make
up for running behind a less effective line than he had in Oakland.
Let’s be clear here, Murray isn’t going to remind
Vikings fans of Peterson in his prime, but he represents a big
upgrade in talent. After losing Bridgewater before the season,
and their offensive coordinator during it, this offense was a
work in progress all year and with an offseason of consistency,
I think will be greatly improved in 2017. With health, Murray
should approach 240 carries and 900 yards. I do think he’s
set for a big regression in touchdowns, but even half a dozen
means there could be some low-end RB2 value here when all is said
and done. His down season, and offensive line perception is going
to keep Murray’s value stifled, but I’d be really
happy to pick him up as my RB3 in a standard scoring league. The
presence of Jerick McKinnon is going to crush his PPR value, but
his recent history of solid production in the Oakland passing
game means he’s not entirely one dimensional.