Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray emerged as a force for fantasy football owners as a rookie in 2011, rushing for 897 yards despite having double-digit carries in just seven of the 13 games he played. But he missed the final three games of that season with a broken right ankle, extending the concerns over his durability dating back to his college career at Oklahoma.
Murray started 2012 on a high note, with 20 carries for 131 yards against the New York Giants, but his season was derailed around mid-season by a sprained left foot that caused him to miss six games. He returned to action in Week 13 against the Philadelphia Eagles and had three consecutive games with a touchdown, but that Week 1 performance stood as his only 100-yard rushing game last season.
Murray clearly has upside potential, but how should fantasy owners view him this year?
The Cowboys reshuffled their running back depth chart a bit this offseason, letting Felix Jones leave in free agency and using a fifth-round pick (151st overall) on Joseph Randle. But Murray remains the team’s clear-cut No. 1 tailback as long as he is healthy, and his ability as a pass catcher (35 receptions last season) makes him a productive three-down back for Dallas.
Concerns over his durability (nine missed games in his career) keeps Murray out of the top tier of fantasy running backs heading into 2013, and rightfully so, but there aren’t many backs that have his upside if he can find a way to stay on the field. Another injury cropped up during OTAs, a hamstring issue this time, but it does not appear to be anything that will linger into training camp.
Murray is perhaps the biggest risk/reward option at running back for fantasy owners this year, and it’s impossible to confidently project his numbers with the lingering possibility of a few missed games. He may fall far enough in a lot of drafts to be a value pick, but those that do draft Murray need to pair him with a more reliable top-tier back. Owners in deep leagues that take the leap and draft Murray should consider using a late draft pick, or a final auction dollar, on Randle.
Brad Berreman is a contributing writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.