I am just now catching my breath. Could it be because I am slightly out of shape? Possibly. However, even the finest tuned athlete would agree that this NFL offseason has been action packed and hard to keep up with.
When a running back who will be drafted in the first round got traded out of the blue a week before free agency began, I knew there was a chance things could get crazy. Thanks, Chip Kelly! You have certainly done your part in assuring that pundits will have no shortage of fodder when discussing the 2015 NFL offseason.
There were many high profile trades/signings. For fantasy purposes, the biggest moves centered around LeSean McCoy to Buffalo, DeMarco Murray to Philadelphia, and Jimmy Graham to Seattle, all of which no one saw coming, and all of which find themselves in a worse position from a fantasy perspective.
First, let me say that McCoy got a bad rap for his 2014 performance. While he may not have lived up to the lofty expectations that go along with being a top three pick, he certainly was not a bust. Many fantasy owners pointed a collective finger at McCoy for their fantasy shortcomings. The 1319 yards he piled up on the ground was good enough for third in the league. The statistical dip came in receiving yardage.
Since McCoy came into the league in 2009 (rec / yards / td).
2009: 40 / 308 / 0
2010: 78 / 592 / 2
2011: 48 / 315 / 3
2012: 54 / 373 / 3
2013: 52 / 539 / 2
2014: 28 / 155 / 0
A career low in receptions and half as many yards as his previous career low back in his rookie season. It is impossible to predict a drop-off that drastic, but with the addition of Darren Sproles anyone with half a brain had to see a decline coming.
What about the five touchdowns you say?!?!?!
In the five seasons that McCoy has logged 200+ carries he has tallied touchdown totals of: 7, 17, 2, 9, and 5 this past season…
Aside from the magical 2011 season, McCoy has never been a huge producer when it comes to finding the end zone.
So what does 2015 hold for LeSean McCoy? Going to a new system, with a brand new coaching staff, and EJ Manuel as your quarterback has to be considered a downgrade. With the new coaching staff in place it makes it hard to project exactly what type of workload he will get in this offense. With that said, Greg Roman who is now the offensive coordinator in Buffalo had a pretty consistent track record when it came to running the football in his four years in San Francisco. Frank Gore averaged 268 carries per season over that four year stretch with a range of 255 to 282. Fantasy owners might not have the opportunity to enjoy another 300+ carry season like McCoy has had the previous two years.
What about the catches? Surely he rebounds in that department, right? There is no guarantee in that department. Fred Jackson, and his old man strength, has seen his catches increase each of the past three seasons, including his 66 last season which was third most by running backs.
At the end of the day he is heading to an offense that will run fewer plays and score less points than his previous home. By the way, did I mention that EJ Manuel is slated to be the starting quarterback. Oh, I did? Well, it needed to be said again. Also, with Greg Roman’s track-record, getting McCoy to 300+ carries might be on the high side of his potential workload. The receptions are hard to predict. While Fred Jackson hauled in a career high in receptions at age 33, he will be another year older and Buffalo is not paying McCoy 40 million to stand on the side line.
For running backs it is all about opportunity and offensive line. No one got more opportunities behind a better offensive line than DeMarco Murray in 2014. The 392 carries he received was tops in the league by a wide margin. The previously mentioned LeSean McCoy was second with a distant 312. He made the most of his vast opportunities as he set a franchise record with 1845 yards and chipped in an additional 416 through the air.
I sort of feel bad for DeMarco Murray. He is like that girlfriend you date in your early 20’s. They give you the best years of their life. All the parties (carries) and late nights (injuries) eventually
catch up with them. You roll over one morning, and they have aged 10 years over night. When it comes time to propose (new contract) you tell them to hit the road. She ends up marrying one of your friends, (division opponent) but you don’t care, you know you wore them out and their best days are behind them.
If you don’t know who Heidi Mueller is…
18 million huh? Heidi Mueller eh? Yea, on second thought, I do not feel bad for DeMarco Murray.
Every piece written on Murray this year will talk about the 2014 workload. Between the 16 game regular season and two post season games, Murray accumulated an insane 497 touches. Not bad for a guy whose durability had been questioned.
The Eagles haven’t laid all their eggs in the DeMarco Murray basket as they also signed former Charger Ryan Mathews as a complimentary back. Here is a quick glance at how Chip Kelly has distributed carries among running backs in his first two seasons running the show.
2013: running back carries: 400 (McCoy 314) (Brown 75) (Polk 11)
2014: running back carries: 418 (McCoy 312) (Sproles 57) (Polk 46)
Of the 818 times an Eagles quarterback has handed the ball off over the past two seasons, 77% of the time LeSean McCoy was on the other end of the hand-off.
So now the question is will Demarco Murray get 77% of the
Eagles ground action this year? If you answer “yes” to that question then by all means feel free to use an early first round pick on Murray with the utmost confidence. Here are a few reasons why I think he will fall well short of that number.
Durability: Forget about the 497 touches last season. Even without taking that into consideration for the upcoming year, durability has been a major concern for Murray. He has proved he is willing to play hurt, as he played the final two games of the regular season and playoffs with a broken hand. Even so, being hurt and injured are two different things. Missing 11 games in his first three seasons is evidence that Murray has a knack for getting bit by the injury bug.
Ryan Mathews: Speaking of durability issues, there might not be another running back in the league who has had more trouble staying on the field more than Ryan Mathews. Here is the thing though, when Mathews has played he has been good.
Player A: 934 carries / 4,256 yards / 4.8 ypc / 28 touchdowns
Player B: 923 carries / 4,061 yards / 4.4 ypc / 23 touchdowns
Does player A’s statistics look like they are worth 4.5 million dollars per year vs. player B? If I was Ryan Mathews, I would not be very happy with my agent.
With a more than competent back-up in place, I cannot see the Eagles giving 77% (315 carries) of the work to an injury prone back who they have made a big financial investment in.
There is good news in fantasy land though. Murray has proven in the past that he does not need a high volume of carries in order to produce quality fantasy numbers. In the 2013 season he was able to amass 1,211 yards and 9 scores on just 217 carries.
Everyone has a career year. For DeMarco Murray it was 2014 when the stars aligned. 497 touches behind the best offensive line in the league led to eye-popping statistics. However, the wear and tear accrued last year cannot be over looked. One would think Chip Kelly would do his best to keep both injury prone backs fresh. I could see a 60 / 40 split for Murray which would work out to around 245 carries. As mentioned above, he has already proven once that he can be a trustworthy fantasy option without the gargantuan workload that 2014 brought.
Seattle came up one yard short of winning SB49. So what did they do? They acquired the most dominant red zone pass catcher in the league in Jimmy Graham. Of the 10 receiving touchdowns Graham had last year only one came from outside the red zone. From a real life football aspect this is a great move for the Seattle Seahawks. From a fantasy perspective this could spell the end for Jimmy Graham as an elite tight end.
Trivia Question: Name the last Seahawk receiver to record a 1,000+ yard season.
Who is Bobby Engram (2007)?
Give yourself a pat on the back if you knew that.
Here is an even more troubling and relevant statistic.
In the three years that Russell Wilson has been at the helm for Seattle there has yet to be a pass catcher record the following:
– 100+ targets
– 900+ yards
– 8+ touchdowns
Jimmy Graham average in those areas over the past four seasons include:
– targets: 138
– yards: 1099
– touchdowns: 11.5
One person that should benefit greatly from the arrival of Jimmy Graham is Russell Wilson. Wilson has already escalated his performance to the point where he will be one of the first quarterbacks off the board on draft day, but this move adds to his allure.
Last year Russell Wilson was a middle of the pack quarterback when it came to redzone touchdown passes with 8. To put that mediocre number in perspective, the likes of Peyton Manning had 18, Tom Brady 17, and Aaron Rodgers / Andrew Luck doubled Wilson’s production with 16. As mentioned above, if there is one thing that Jimmy Graham specializes in, its red zone success.
On the other hand, Marshawn Lynch’s touchdown total could take a slight hit as Graham recorded five touchdowns from inside the five yard line.
Jimmy Graham is an outstanding talent, but the seasons of getting 130+ targets aren’t going to happen in Seattle. I don’t see there being enough opportunity for him to rack up the monstrous numbers we have become accustomed to from his days in New Orleans. The biggest winner in this deal is Russell Wilson.
Sadly, we still have 130 days until kickoff. There could still be a few more blockbusters between now and then *cough*cough* Peterson.
(Click the BLUE link below to listen)
Major League Fantasy Sports Show: Join Ej Garr and Corey D Roberts on Sunday April 26th from 7pm-8:30pm EST for this week’s episode of the Major League Fantasy Sports radio show sponsored by the Sports Palooza Radio Network. Call in at 646-915-8596. This week will be discussing all things fantasy related in the A.L. East and the N.L. Central.