The Dallas Cowboys finished 24th in the NFL in rushing in 2013 (94.0 yards per game), due in part to the second lowest number of attempts in the league (336, 21 per game). That made it easy to overlook a solid season from running back DeMarco Murray, who had 1,121 rushing yards and nine touchdowns along with 53 catches for 350 yards and one score, but fantasy football owners that had him surely noticed he played a career-high 14 games.
The Cowboys did not have great options behind Murray last season, as rookie Joseph Randle did not produce much in limited action and Lance Dunbar went down with a left knee injury on Thanksgiving that sidelined him for the rest of the season. Dunbar is now 100 percent healthy, and is considered the front runner to be Murray’s backup next season. Should fantasy owners pay attention to him?
Dunbar had his best game of last season against the Oakland Raiders on Thanksgiving Day prior to being injured, with 12 carries for 82 yards and one catch for 12 yards. He ended up averaging five yards per carry in 2013 (30 carries for 150 yards), and the arrival of Scott Linehan as the new play caller makes it likely that two backs can be productive in Dallas’ offense. When Linehan was offensive coordinator for the Detroit Lions last season, Reggie Bush and Joique Bell both had more than 50 receptions and over 1,100 total yards of offense.
Murray is clearly the Cowboys’ No. 1 running back, and he is in line to be a top-tier RB1 for fantasy owners in 2014. But his injury history, including a knee issue that kept him out of two games last season, should not be ignored and creates some risk in drafting him as a No. 1 fantasy running back. For those that draft Murray in deeper leagues and want to protect themselves from a lengthy absence due to injury, Dunbar has the look of a suitable handcuff.