For the next few weeks before we get to focus on the NFL Draft, I’ll be laying the tracks for the RotoExperts Fantasy Football Hype Train to talk about some players that may end up being buzzed-about names next Fantasy draft season. Up first, we’ll take a look at Latavius Murray, the Oakland Raiders RB who will be entering his third season, and first with new head coach Jack Del Rio at the helm.
Murray is a product of Central Florida, and had a lot of buzz coming into his rookie season because of his freakish athletic ability, and overall size at 6’3” 225 lbs. A linebacker coming out of high school, Murray was used to a physical style of play and finished his college career as a decorated player at UCF, compiling 2,424 rushing yards and 37 touchdowns during that time.
This past season, Murray was touted early on by yours truly when it appeared that the only hurdles to overcome for playing time were Darren McFadden and the ghost of Maurice Jones-Drew. At the time, I didn’t realize the coaching staff would seem to be actively trying to lose games intentionally, and keep the kid buried on the bench despite the fact that both McFadden and MJD were anything but effective. Murray got his break in Week 11 after the two elder statesmen were woefully underwhelming. He toted the ball seven times, and gained 59 yards in the process. It was never a question of ability, but rather opportunity for Murray, and now it seemed like he had gotten his. The following week, the Raiders traveled to Kansas City to take on the Chiefs, and Murray got the start. He rewarded the approximately two percent of Yahoo! users who actually started him with touchdowns on two of his first three carries, one for 11 yards and one – untouched – for 90 yards. He was concussed on his fourth carry and forced from the game, but not before compiling 112 yards on four carries with two scores in the game. Breakout game: achieved.
He missed some time due to the injury, but over the final four weeks of the year, he was the bell cow for the Silver & Black. He received 68 carries (two games of 23 carries in there) and amassed 258 yards. He finished the season with 82 carries, 424 yards, two scores, and a 5.2 YPC average for a truly miserable Raiders team. The team has a new offensive coordinator in Bill Musgrave, who has said he plans to tailor the rushing offense to take advantage of Murray’s skills. I think this fact, along with some key free agency moves with an almost limitless budget for the Raiders, plus smart picks in the rookie draft (Amari Cooper with the fourth pick, maybe?) could spell a major improvement for the team next season.
Hype Train Outlook: All aboard! Murray should be about a fifth round pick in August barring any truly remarkable changes. He figures to be on the board along with other low-RB2 types with upside such as Tre Mason, Isaiah Crowell, Denard Robinson, and Jerick McKinnon. Again, things could change, but I like Murray’s opportunity the best, and think he’d make a great pick in the fifth as a third back drafted, or a RB2 if you’ve already secured your QB and Rob Gronkowski through the first four rounds. The train should pick up steam as he gains familiarity with the offense, and has a full pre-season as the lead back in Oakland. Murray is a legitimate player, and with the right opportunity he could be a very solid NFL back/Fantasy good for 270 carries, 1100 yards and eight touchdowns next season.