DeMarco Murray is the starter for the Tennessee Titans, for a team that has one of the best offensive lines in football, a team that is built on power-running. He was one of the most consistent running backs last year; he was in the top-25 14 times in standard leagues, only behind David Johnson, LeGarette Blount, and Ezekiel Elliott. His ESPN consistency rating last year ranks him third behind Zeke and David Johnson. If we go back and look at who the most consistent running backs are since 2014, Murray is by far the most consistent running back in that time span besides Zeke, who only played one year. When drafting in the early rounds, drafting a player who doesn’t bust is step one, and I believe Murray is bust-proof. When Murray is being drafted behind Devonta Freeman, Melvin Gordon, and sometimes Jordan Howard and Jay Ajayi, I try to figure out why those players are preferred. Murray isn’t old or injury prone. Murray has only missed 3 games in the last 4 years, and he’s 29 years old. He’s the same age as Lesean McCoy, who has had 478 more carries than Murray in his career. The effective backs stay on the field, and I’m confident that Murray can have very similar, if not better, numbers in an improved Titans offense.
The main reason people aren’t trusting Murray this year is because of the assumption that Derrick Henry will eat into Murray’s touches significantly. Henry had 110 carries and 13 receptions last year. This past year we thought Tevin Coleman was going to eat into Freeman’s share significantly, and Coleman had 118 carries and 31 receptions, after he recorded 89 total touches the year before. Let’s say Henry has a slightly larger bump in numbers that Coleman had (Coleman missed a couple of games), going from his rookie to 2nd year. Let’s say he’s around 150 carries and 25 receptions. Murray’s total touches would go down about 50 touches, but he will still be around 300. The reason why Freeman didn’t lose that many touches to Coleman is because he’s clearly the more talented running back, and that is the reason why Murray is going to be on the field most of the time for the Titans. Last year, Murray was on the field on all of the important plays, and is capable on any down. Henry is a capable pass-catcher, but he’s no Demarco Murray; Murray has caught 40+ catches in each of the last four years, and 50+ catches three out of the last four years.
The Titans offense is loaded with weapons now, and they’re not going to put inferior players on the field and limit what they can do just to get their new, shiny running back some touches. Henry will definitely have more touches than he did last year, but Murray is still going to pump out very dependable week-to-week fantasy numbers in the running and passing game. If we’re really worried about Henry cutting into Murray’s time on the field, why aren’t we saying the same things about Freeman? We even have the numbers with Freeman; Freeman was on the field 58% of the time, with Coleman at 34%. DeMarco Murray was on the field 81% of the time last year. I don’t expect the Titans to cut field time for their best player by 25%, which is why I prefer Murray over Freeman. When you’re on the field, you produce, and I’ll bet on Murray taking 70-75% of snaps. The fact that he’s on the field in any game script gives me confidence as well. I also don’t buy the idea of Henry being the exclusive goal line back. Murray has proven that he’s a good goal line back, and the team would really be spiting him if they didn’t reward him with goal line attempts after doing everything between the 20’s. I like to pick safe, consistent players in the first round, and I don’t think I can go wrong with DeMarco Murray, especially in a PPR format.