Is The Raiders’ Latavius Murray Still A Viable Sleeper RB For 2014?

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

At one point this offseason fantasy owners were salivating at the idea of the Raiders’ Latavius Murray being the ultimate draft day sleeper. There appeared to be little on the depth chart ahead of him and, after missing his entire rookie season due to an ankle injury, the novice fantasy player wouldn’t even know his name.

Fast forward a few weeks and the Raiders have resigned Darren McFadden while also signing free agent Maurice Jones-Drew. Suddenly the optimism regarding Murray has calmed dramatically, but does that mean he should be ignored? Quite the opposite, in fact, as Murray presents even greater sleeper appeal now that he appears to be buried on the depth chart.

Let’s be honest, how much can the Raiders expect from their two veteran running backs? Their lines from last season are less than promising:

  • Jones-Drew – 803 rushing yards (3.4 YPC), 314 receiving yards, 5 TD
  • McFadden – 379 rushing yards (3.3 YPC), 108 receiving yards, 5 TD

McFadden has always battled injuries, and is almost a lock to miss time again in 2014. Throw in back-to-back years of 3.3 YPC and it’s hard to get excited.

Jones-Drew missed the bulk of 2012 with a Lisfranc injury and clearly lacked the same burst he had earlier in his career (career 4.5 YPC). We can blame the Jacksonville offensive line if we want, but there’s no guarantee he ever gets back to the type of player he was.

Two veterans. Two huge question marks. One potentially great opportunity.

Here’s what NFL.com’s Gil Brandt had to say about Murray prior to the draft:

“At 6-foot-2 and 223 pounds, Murray is a big back, yet he was able to run under 4.4 seconds in the 40-yard dash at his pro day. However, he does not play as fast as his 40 time. Was productive at Central Florida, rushing for more than 1,000 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2012. He’s also a good receiver out of the backfield.”

Coach Dennis Allen was quoted by NBC Bay Area (click here for the article) as saying:

“He’s a big back that’s got excellent speed and excellent size. He runs tough.”

The makeup sounds impressive, and it should lead to opportunities even if Jones-Drew and McFadden stay healthy (as we already said, hardly a guarantee). He easily could be the team’s future at the position, so it makes sense to find a role for him now.

The 24-year old rushed for 15 TD and caught another four during his final year in college (40 total TD over his final three seasons). With his size and ability to catch the football, he could start as the third down/short yardage back and see his role grow from there.

Is he a lock to become an every down back in 2014? Far from it. Could he? Absolutely, and that’s where the potential value comes from.

In dynasty formats he’s well worth stashing, because even if he doesn’t make a major impact in 2014 his time should come in 2015. In redraft formats, he’s more of a player to watch off the waiver wire or take as a last round flier if you come up short on RB and have the extra roster spot. The potential value is there, and so is the potential opportunity.

Sources – ESPN, NFL.com, NBC Bay Area

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