Fantasy Football Free Agency: Latavius Murray & New Orleans Saints
Fantasy Football Free Agency: Latavius Murray Signs Four-Year Deal With New Orleans Saints
Per Adam Schefter, Latavius Murray has signed a four-year contract with the New Orleans Saints and Mark Ingram is not expected to return with the team next year. This is perhaps the biggest move that has happened in 2019 NFL Free Agency for fantasy football purposes. The New Orleans Saints are one of the most fantasy-friendly offenses in the NFL. They have also signified with their treatment of Alvin Kamara that they want to have at least a two-headed backfield.
In his first two NFL seasons, Alvin Kamara has totaled 201 and 275 total touches while not topping 200 carries in either season. In 2017, Mark Ingram had 230 rushing attempts to Kamara's 120 (while Adrian Peterson also had 27 rushing attempts). In 2018, Kamara had 194 carries in 15 games while Ingram had 138 carries in 12 games. Ingram also added 27 targets last season. As long as Sean Payton and Drew Brees have been together in New Orleans, the team has preferred to use two running backs as opposed to one workhorse back.
As JJ Zachariason notes on Twitter, just being in this offense is valuable.
Here's how New Orleans Saints running backs have ranked in fantasy football scoring (PPR) as a team since 2011:
This is why the Latavius Murray signing matters.
— JJ Zachariason (@LateRoundQB) March 12, 2019
Alvin Kamara is still clearly the lead dog in this offense. The Saints also brought in a plethora of runners last season to attempt to fill Ingram's shoes. Jonathan Williams, Mike Gillislee, Dwayne Washington and to some extent Taysom Hill were other rushers who were given the chance to give Kamara a breather. Clearly, the Saints did not want to pay Ingram what he feels he is worth. Signing Murray is a paradigm shift, however, from bringing in practice-squad quality runners like Washington and Gillislee.
Unlike when Jonathan Williams was signed and consequently over-drafted in fantasy football in 2018, the signing of Latavius Murray actually has an impact on fantasy football for 2019. Back in 2013, Latavius Murray was a favored running back prospect of the new analytics crew in fantasy football. Murray's performance at the combine, running a 4.38 40 at 223 pounds is not soon forgotten. Latavius Murray had one singular 1,000 yard rushing season with six touchdowns in 2015 as a 16-game starter. In 14 games in 2016, he split carries with DeAndre Washington and accrued 12 touchdowns with 4.6 yards per touch. He spent the last two seasons as the on-again, off-again starter for the Minnesota Vikings with Dalvin Cook and Jerrick McKinnon to split time with. He scored 14 touchdowns, averaged 4.2 yards per touch and gained 1,664 yards as a member of the Vikings.
Latavius Murray Fantasy Football Free Agency Impact
While he is certainly not quite as good as Mark Ingram (Murray finished 10 spots below Ingram in rushing Defensive Yards Above Replacement in 2018), that does not particularly matter for his fantasy football stock in 2019. The New Orleans Saints had the 2nd best Adjusted Line Yards of all offensive lines in 2018 per Football Outsiders and have one of the best five quarterbacks in the league. Even if Latavius Murray is not a great or even very good NFL running back, he is put in a prime situation to succeed and offensive environment is more predictive than "running back talent" is. The Saints head coach calls plays aggressively and intelligently, and also prefers to use two running backs instead of just one. With a 30% rushing share and 8% target share (conservative on the rushing, a bit aggressive on the receiving), Murray would become a pretty strong Zero-RB candidate and a worthy target in the 8th round or later of your fantasy football drafts. He is not just a pure handcuff, as he is likely to at least split carries and have a significant role in the redzone as well.
Fantasy Football Free Agency Signings:
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