Club Fantasy – 2017 Free Agent Preview – Latavius Murray

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By The Hudsonian, Joshua Hudson

Fantasy football is over. Or is it? Because I see it as the beginning. The beginning of the start of your season. Now is where you get the edge on your league mates. If you know all the ins and outs of who goes where – from players to coordinators and position coaches – you’re priming yourself for a trip to your fantasy playoffs in the upcoming season.

First comes free agency, then comes the draft. Sounds like the start of a fantasy addict’s nursery rhyme, but I digress. There will be plenty of content coming your way from Club Fantasy on this year’s draft class, but first, we start with NFL free agency.

This series will cover offensive players, as they have the most impact in fantasy circles and we at Club Fantasy don’t play individual defensive players, or IDPs as the kids call it these days.

Next up on the free agent preview list: Raiders running back Latavius Murray.

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The Oakland Raiders aren’t expected to bring back their starting tailback in 2017. Design credit: Kathilia Colón (@katcolon37 on Instagram) & Scott Walker (Logo; @scottwlkr)

The 27-year old Murray has had two back-to-back successful seasons in Oakland – his first two as a starter I might add. In 2015, he finished 10th among fantasy running backs, contributing 1,066 yards rushing and 6 touchdowns. 2016 saw a downtick in his rushing yards, only 788 in two fewer games, but doubled his touchdown output to 12, en route to finishing 12th among fantasy running backs.

So what does all that say about Murray heading into free agency? For one, he’s consistent. He scored 208.7 fantasy points in 2015 and 208.8 in 2016. Want some more? He averaged 4.0 yards per carry in both years as well. Say what you will about Murray, but you know what you’re getting.

Is that what the Raiders want though? They brought in two rookies – DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard – to compliment Murray, and both drastically cut into his workload. What they didn’t show, however, is that they could handle the position by themselves, leaving the Raiders with a decision to make on Murray: re-sign him or go into the season with two undersized second year back.

It’s hardly a good thing for fantasy owners when running backs change teams. Even the ones you expect to succeed find ways to disappoint you – I’m talking to you Lamar Miller and Matt Forte. So if the Raiders let Murray walk, do you spend a second or third round pick on the perennial RB2?

Here’s some possible landing spots for the Raider:

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Murray scored 12 touchdowns in 2016. Who will his TDs be for next year? Photo from justblogbaby.com.

Indianapolis Colts

Before Frank Gore last season, the Colts hadn’t had a 1,000 yard rusher since Joseph Addai in 2007. There are current fantasy owners who don’t even remember him. Because of this, and the fact that Frank Gore will turn 34 in May, the Colts will be linked to every free agent running back.

Is Latavius Murray the answer? He’s 27 and in his prime, but at 4.0 yards per carry, he’s hardly an improvement over the ageless Gore. But with over $54 million in cap space, according to Overthecap.com, you certainly can’t count them out.

Carolina Panthers

It is widely expected that the Panthers will part with one time first-round pick Jonathan Stewart. Stewart has had a litany of injuries that have prevented him from playing a full season since 2011. He has one 1,000 yard season in his career – his second year in 2009 – and he’ll be 30 in March. Experts say that’s when running backs start to go downhill. Even casual observers will tell you Stewart passed his a few years ago.

The Panthers have a little more than $50 million available, and we know some of that is earmarked for stud defensive tackle Kawaan Short. Murray would team with star quarterback Cam Newton to give the Panthers a resurgent running game.

Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles will be linked with every offensive skill position player this offseason. Why should this article be any different?

It’s expected they will part ways with incumbent Ryan Mathews, leaving them with a 33-year old Darren Sproles and second-year back Wendell Smallwood. They’ll be in the market for a lead ball carrier. And to add more information to the rumor mill, Murray was spotted working out this offseason with Eagles QB Carson Wentz. Wentz has a lot of pull in Philly now after a solid, if unspectacular, rookie season. Would it be surprising if Wentz didn’t make a call to GM Howie Roseman telling him to go after Murray?

If the cleats fit, am I right?

The Verdict

The Colts have the most cap room of these teams, so if money talks, they could be the home for Murray. But I think the Raiders will bring back Murray. Their offense was clicking with a healthy Carr, and I don’t think the front office wants to mess with that. Look for Murray to get a 4-year deal, in the range of what Lamar Miller signed last offseason (4 years, $26 million), and continue his RB2 status for the Raiders and your fantasy teams.