Dallas Cowboys: DeMarco Murray’s 2012 Fantasy Outlook
The Dallas Cowboys have been looking for a true starting running back ever since the days of Emmitt Smith. They thought they might have one in Felix Jones a few years back, but his sketchy injury history has kept him from realizing his full potential.
Last season rookie running back DeMarco Murray rattled off a 200-yard rushing game and tacked on five games with 20 or more carries, displaying the ability to be that every down back the franchise has been searching for.
His first year ended prematurely due to a broken ankle in week 14, but Murray is back and healthy and slated to be the top back again entering the 2012 season.
So, just how much value does this guy carry in fantasy football?
First off, you can throw the injury concerns out the window. The ankle break was a fluke thing, and otherwise this guy had no problem staying healthy last year. You can forget about Jones being a thorn in his side, as well. According to Dan Graziano of ESPN Dallas, it’s clear that Murray is the number one back.
With Jones never being a prime example for a running back that can stay healthy, either, he seems to be less and less of a concern heading into the new year.
That leaves Murray’s ability and role as the only two question marks. In his first year, he piled on 895 rushing yards in just 13 appearances, finishing with a gaudy 5.5 yards per carry average. That will be tough to repeat, but a closer look shows he actually tallied over 800 of his 895 yards in just seven contests. Stretch that over a full season, and Murray is looking at 1,600+ rushing yards.
Obviously that pace isn’t realistically sustainable in any average year, but it does a good job to show Murray’s talent and explosiveness as a runner.
The fact that the Cowboys have been gearing more towards a balanced offensive attack works in Murray’s favor, as well. The five games with 20+ rushing attempts in 2011 show you how serious the team is about making a balanced approach a full-time philosophy, despite having a slew of potent weapons in the passing game.
As with most running backs, the only real concern that appears to exist with Murray right now is whether or not he can stay healthy. But outside of his freak ankle injury, there really is no reason to suggest he can’t.
And if he’s healthy, Murray has shown the ability to put up some big games. We don’t know yet how big of a role he’ll have in the passing game, but his 26 receptions as a rookie are encouraging. His two rushing touchdowns as a rookie aren’t what you like to see, but that number should triple at the very minimum as a full-time starter.
Feel free to draft Murray as a very strong RB2 this year, with solid RB1 upside.